Duty of Care risk mitigation is a migraine headache for corporations to manage.  Why?  Because travel considerations are as diverse as the travelers themselves: gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, religious observances, etc.  Something as simple as having one of your business travelers snap a photo of a government building could get him arrested.  No joke.

Once those considerations are accounted for, there remain countless other risks or threats from seen and unseen sources.  There are obvious risks for auto or aircraft accidents, natural catastrophes or terrorism to contend with.  But, there are more subtle threats too.  For example, it might not be wise to send an employee from your Saudi office to Europe during Ramadan where it is not practiced.  Nor would it be wise to send one of your employees from the LGBTQ community to any of the 70 countries that still consider it a crime.

To say it’s merely “a challenge” to manage corporate travel risk is an understatement.  We all know that corporations have the moral and ethical obligation to keep their employees safe when they travel for business. But what exactly can be done?  Where do you start?   Once you have a risk mitigation program in place, how do you refresh and refine it?

Rally the Troops

Travel is one of the few departments within an organization that affects everyone.   As such, it is critical to get as many voices in harmony as you can.  Human Resources, Security, Legal, IT and Finance need to collaborate with the Travel department for a holistic perspective on risk mitigation.    Each party brings an invaluable contribution to identify risk, alleviate it, insure against it or decide what actionable steps meet traveler safety and security.

How to Prepare Travelers

The biggest issue with business travel risk is lack of traveler awareness.  Remember that guy who got arrested simply for snapping a photo of a government building?  Nobody warned him that was illegal.

Think hard about what information you can provide in advance for your traveler.  Pre-travel advisory at the start can address issues before a traveler winds up in sketchy situations on the road.  The traveler has to be aware of exactly what they’re getting into.

Communicate safe travel practices, ensuring employees receive appropriate vaccinations, and ensuring the traveler has an understanding of their responsibility as identified in your formal travel risk plan.

In addition to equipping your travelers with information in advance, some corporations have taken to offering highly-niche training such as pre-travel trauma training and self-preservation training to teach women how to identify threatening situations and how to back away from it.

Business Travel Risk Mitigation

It is the travel department’s responsibility to be proactive and find out what special needs exist among their travelers. One person might feel perfectly comfortable flying to Russia, while another may not.  It is an objective balancing act between policy and people’s feelings.

Establish a method of communication between business travelers and the Travel Department. Make sure you have a form for business travelers to complete or a method for them to communicate their special considerations with the travel department, be it gender, sexual orientation or disabilities.  Perhaps a designated email address that allows travelers to directly communicate with Travel like travel@yourcompanyname.com.

When you are contracting with hotel vendors, select those that have non-discrimination policies in place.   Build the dangerous regions and their risk levels into pre-trip authorization technology like Authorizer PRO so that trip requests are evaluated before they get ticketed.   Workflow systems can incorporate alerts to other departments within the organization who need to be in the loop about traveler safety and security.

Utilize travel intelligence available from companies like World Aware. They provide reports on neighborhood safety ratings and incidents alerts/warnings.  Companies engaged in third party risk management can offer pre-travel awareness and advisory for travelers traveling abroad down to a list of immunizations required to travel to certain regions of the world.  They can also give you information specific to women and LGBTQ both legal and cultural implications.

Make it a priority to consult online resources that identify dangerous regions around the globe.  The US Department of State divides countries into certain risk levels as well have offers sections that explain certain local circumstances and cultural considerations for free.    Sign up for Overseas Security Advisory Council (US-Centric, free to sign up for alerts to find out where tensions are high around the world).  Even if you’re an international organization, you still have access to some of the OSAC information.  For example, in early August 2019 Saudi Arabian law changed to permit women to travel without male accompaniment, so OSAC alerted its subscribers.  Alerts like that are helpful.

Refresh and Refine Your Risk Mitigation Plan

Over 80% of GBTA members surveyed said they have not revisited their risk mitigation plan since its implementation.  While there are no “official” guidelines for corporate responsibility of risk management, corporations must protects themselves from liability by protecting their business travelers.   In addition to the suggestions and sites presented in this article, here are a few more sites to bookmark as you revisit your travel risk management program:

UK Foreign Commonwealth Office – www.fco.gov.uk

Government of Canada – www.travel.gc.ca

International LGBTI – www.ilga.gov

International Association for Medical Assistance for Travelers – www.iamat.org

European Union Airline Safety Ban List – ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/safety/air-ban.en