Business Travel Show Europe is the place where
September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Travel buyers gathered at London’s Grange City hotel on May 15 to debate risk management at the recent BBT Forum.
There were four sessions during the day which included striking the right balance between traveller independence and ‘command and control’, and the risks and rewards of ‘lightly managed’ travel.
The first session explored travel security in today’s environment and examined best practice. Delegates at the Forum agreed that recent terrorist attacks, airline tragedies and natural disasters such as the Nepal earthquake raised a key issue for those with duty-of-care responsibilities: the ability to know where their travellers are at any point in time.
The forum heard how traveller tracking presents several challenges around technology, communication, policy compliance and employees’ concerns about privacy. Another concern raised was how secure the data is and where it is held. Could it be hacked or compromised, and is it wise to let the data to be held in the US considering recent revelations of widespread government monitoring of information?
As one expert put it, there is an “optimism bias” with many travellers – the sense that “it won’t happen to me”, and the job of the travel buyer is to ensure that if it does, then the traveller can be helped as quickly as possible.
With effective risk management dependent on traveller behaviour, getting their “buy-in” is essential, delegates agreed. Very few travellers “stray out of spite”, and many do it for the right reasons, believing they are saving money, often for their local departmental budgets. So it’s vital to communicate why straying undermines the travel programme and leads to risks.
When things do go wrong, procedures and processes are all important, it was agreed.
Travel buyers should set up a duty-of-care committee so they can prepare, track, respond and have good reporting. In the end, the effectiveness of a risk management strategy depends on traveller behaviour.
Home and away
While an onus on risk management is in part driven by expansion into emerging markets, it should also be a consideration closer to home. As BCD Travel director Tony McGetrick pointed out, the government currently rates the terror threat level to the UK as ‘severe’ – one below the highest possible risk rating. Yet delegates happily gathered here in London, he said, with little thought to the risk, and “many of us here with no more traveller tracking than an Oyster card.”
This prompted a debate on whether risk policies should only apply to travellers: should travel risk programmes be more closely integrated with wider company policies encompassing all employees?
Matthew Judge, group managing director of the Anvil Group, said travel safety policy should indeed be an integral part of other company policies. This, he said, is achieved through “branching”, where all company policies that impact each other contain a “reference branch” to the other relevant main policies or procedures, to ensure consistency.
For example, an insurance policy might state how many employees can travel together. This needs to be reflected in travel management and safety procedures, while incident response policies and procedures should branch up and down into crisis management plans, PR policies and so on.
Engaging with all stakeholders was something many delegates agreed was key to effective risk management – departments that should be involved include insurance, legal, security and HR, as well as the supply chain.
A lighter touch?
The ‘lightness’ of managed travel varies widely according to company cultures and the environments they operate in. For travel buyers from energy and mining firms, the ‘light touch’ is not an option – one buyer said every meeting started with a security and risk update, and for some employees training in kidnap and ransom scenarios is compulsory.
One buyer said their company abided by a list of banned countries to visit, whether because of sanctions or other geopolitical or security reasons, “regardless of the commercial opportunity – the list is the list.”
Another buyer described annual e-learning modules with a high pass rate required for all travellers, plus a mandated booking channel: attempting to book through this channel to a “dodgy” destination automatically triggers a phone call from the security division as to the reason for the trip, and “very high-level sign-off” before completion of the booking.
Meanwhile other buyers said their companies allowed a greater degree of freedom, with some allowing use of sharing economy providers such as Uber and Airbnb – here delegates discussed how the concept of “risk versus reward” is illustrated by the value and choice these providers offer, versus safety standards and insurance cover
Others mandated against the use of these providers, despite the ability to gather data from these booking through expense management tools. However, BCD’s McGetrick said “don’t ignore the sharing economy”. “Look at Ryanair and Easyjet a few years ago”, he said, referring to a time when these carriers were not generally considered viable business travel options but are now more widely accepted part of the sector.
The BBT Forum was sponsored by Get There, HRS, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Lufthansa Group, The Anvil Group, Diners Club International, BCD Travel, Sabre and Grange Hotels.
BBT Forums are an opportunity for travel buyers to debate the key issues affecting their roles, and engage in candid, open dialogue and networking with peers and other industry experts. For more information click here
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