THE TOOLS AT HAND
Helping corporates meet their duty of care and wellbeing responsibilities are a range of suppliers, tools and resources
As the business travel sector finally begins to emerge from the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, we look at the practical resources available to organisations to keep on top of these responsibilities - both before the trip and while on the road.
A plethora of tools and resources are currently accessible to organisations, and one of the first steps is to establish which of these services are most suitable for the type of travel - and the level of risk - being taken by travellers.
"There are many technical tools on the market, specifically when it comes to centralising itinerary management, traveller location and communication," explains Suzanne Sangiovese, commercial and communications director at Riskline.
Pre-trip options include services such as traveller briefings and expert guidance on destinations, which are designed to flag up potential health, security and safety issues. Many suppliers produce "risk maps" covering countries and regions so users can assess the level of potential danger to their employees.
Healix, for example, has recently launched its Sentinel Protect subscription service offering 'bespoke' risk intelligence, analysis and proactive reporting, which has been developed to "mitigate risks before they become problematic".
There are also medical tools to ensure employees are 'fit to travel' and whether they need to take any vaccines or medicines before going to certain destinations - a factor that's become even more important during Covid times.
"Employees should be empowered to take responsibility of their own safety, being provided with all the information and guidance required ahead of the trip," says James Wood, head of security solutions at International SOS.
On-trip tools are the other key component, where travellers receive the latest medical and security advice while on the road, usually through a smartphone app, as well as access to emergency 24/7 phone lines to help them, if necessary.
When an incident occurs, such as a terrorist attack, civil unrest or natural disaster, tracking capabilities allow travellers in a designated area to be quickly located and contacted. This can take the form of 'pushing' messages to travellers, via an app, so they can respond at the push of a button to say they are ok.
In extreme circumstances, services can also extend to offering ground support and evacuation assistance to travellers, which are typically provided by security specialists.
HOW CAN TMCs HELP?
Being able to locate travellers who may be affected by a security or health incident is crucial in the duty of care playbook.
TMCs are in a vital position to help clients in locating their travellers in an emergency, often working hand-in-hand with a security specialist, as they should have the travel data to be able to find travellers quickly, providing they have booked through corporate tools.
Identifying potential risks before travel and within the booking process itself is becoming a wider part of TMCs' services, alongside support to travellers on the road.
Shelley Mathews, general manager - sales, EMEA, at CTM, says the TMC uses maps to assess the level of risks in destinations before travel.
"The more reactive side is pushing out alerts to the travel manager, booker and traveller if something happens in a location they're in or travelling to," she adds.
"We're doing more on the proactive side by serving up risk levels and alerts inside the booking flow, so travellers are aware before they book and trips also aren't booked unnecessarily."
Just knowing where your travellers are is a key component to improving duty of care, and a compelling reason for employees to book through the kind of corporate booking tools offered by TMCs and others.
USING SECURITY SPECIALISTS
One of the most difficult decisions for organisations is whether to use a specialist security provider - often their TMC will have an existing relationship with one of these firms which can make the process easier.
"If you have the necessary bandwidth and level of expertise internally, it may be possible for you to then implement and manage your own travel risk management (TRM) programme, especially if you have a manageable number of travellers who predominantly travel to stereotypically 'safe' regions," says Matthew Judge, group managing director of Anvil Group.
But even if an organisation believes its employees travel almost entirely to 'lower risk' destinations, serious incidents can happen anywhere.
"I wouldn't suggest a company only involve specialists if they are travelling to higher risk destinations. Crises and risks, large and small, can surface anywhere - the pandemic showed us this exactly," adds Riskline's Suzanne Sangiovese.
Chris Job, director of risk management services at Healix, advises organisations to get security firms "involved as early as possible to design and develop a comprehensive programme" to assess the risk to travellers, before deciding if an ongoing relationship is necessary.
"Businesses can then assess which of those risks they are willing to tolerate without any security provision and engage with a specialist security provider for the risks that do need to be treated," adds Job.
For organisations who don't feel the services of a security specialist are appropriate, affordable or necessary, there are a host of free resources available in this arena.
These include extensive updates and advice from national and international organisations, such as the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. The World Health Organization (WHO) also offers information on a global scale.
There are also consumer-facing live tracking apps which can potentially be used by corporates, although they are obviously not backed up by any professional risk management support.
Several security companies offer some publicly available free content in the form of blogs, webinars and white papers, which can be useful in helping companies to assess their level of risk and take some practical steps to mitigating them.
A SELECTION OF LEADING TRAVEL SAFETY SPECIALISTS
Anvil Group: Provides technology-led operational resilience and travel risk management solutions, including its Riskmatics platform.
Collinson Group: Offers risk management including medical and security assistance through its partnership with Crisis24 and network of global operation centres.
Crisis24: Global firm supplying intelligence and security risk management services. It acquired fellow security specialist WorldAware in 2020.
International SOS: Specialises in customised health, security risk management and wellbeing solutions to mitigate health and security threats.
Peregrine Risk Management: Provides travel risk management, physical security, risk consultancy and training among its services.
Riskline: Specialises in risk assessments and alerts for hundreds of destinations globally, including countries, territories, regions and cities.