September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
What became clear at last week's one day forum on travel and security is just how complicated the whole business is. If nothing else, the day ended any lingering thoughts that travel security could be handled solely by the travel manager. It is a task calling for time, resources and expertise most travel managers simply do not have.The forum "Danger Zone: Traveller Security and Risk Assessment" was organised by the UK and Ireland Institute of Travel Management (ITM) in London and attended by 100 delegates and it started with some disturbing figures. One recent survey of UK business travellers showed that 53% thought the world would be a more dangerous place within the next five years and that 40% thought they could be a target of terrorists' attack.But most worrying, 59% did not have confidence that their companies were giving them the right advice when travelling.When security and traveller safety rank as high as two or three on travel managers' lists of priorities, this is truly unsettling. It begs the question as to what, if any advice, these worried travellers are getting.But setting up a travel policy is neither easy nor quick. Caroline Strachan, international travel manager for Yahoo!, said it could take up to 15 months to draw up and implement a travel security policy and after that the job was not finished as the policy would need constant reviewing as well as regular testing.Many of the ingredients essential to implementing a travel policy were needed to set up and run a security policy. Time and resources were among these as well as support and backing from other departments, like HR and security itself. But high on the list were people at executive level to give top management support and therefore credibility and, another essential, someone to run the policy when something happened.In other words, all along the way, a company needs travel security experts to guide and assist the travel manager.Why these were necessary became clear as Sue Seaby spelt out her policy as global group head of security at Barclays Group. It was a policy packed with detail and full of complexity.Each country which Barclays staff visited was given a security grading. Level three was for the usual business travel destinations like the States, Germany or France. Level two for those with a medium risk, like, currently, Kenya or Pakistan and level one, the high risk destinations which are usually banned, like Afghanistan. Behind these gradings was expert advice based on local knowledge. If, for example, Barclays planned to visit a new market, the destination was visited by experts to assess any risk, check likely hotels, work out the best way to get their and to draw up plans for any possible evacuation. Employees going out there would be briefed on local culture, told what their responsibilities were as travellers and told what Barclays' responsibilities to them were as staff. When they returned they were de-briefed so more knowledge could be added to that already gathered.But it became obvious that the real test of a travel security policy was not what information had been gathered but, more crucially, how it performed when an emergency arose. Barclays was put to this test twice in recent months, once after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and again after violence and unrest broke out in Kenya following the disputed elections.In each case, it had to get employees and their families out of the country and in both cases this was successfully achieved, in one instance under armed guard.This is all a long way from the more usual fare of travel security, warnings of pickpockets in city centre, bag thieves at main railway stations or cultural misdemeanours.But it also shows the scope needed to provide travellers with the protection they both need and deserve.If the bulk of these travellers do feel their companies re not giving them the right advice, those companies must act on this rapidly.