IN LIGHT of recent worldwide events, Hotel Reservation Serviceâ€™s Todd Arthur urges companies to place more emphasis on business traveller security as part of the businessâ€™ duty of care.
Back in 2015, reports of terrorist threats and attacks dominated global headlines. Back in August, Bangkok experienced its worst ever bombing and then in November, terrorists struck multiple locations across Paris, triggering the US government to issue a worldwide travel warning. In both of these attacks, victims came from all over the world â€“ locals, expats, tourists and business travellers. As the year ended, several capital cities were on high alert. Beijing was under partial lockdown and Austrian authorities stepped up security across Vienna.
The UK Foreign Office currently ranks 30 countries as having a high risk of terrorism. These include popular business travel destinations including Australia, Indonesia, India and several countries in Western Europe. However, this high-risk environment has not weakened demand for business travel. The Global Business Travel Association forecasts an 11 per cent increase in business travel between 2015-2016, with business travel in India and China projected to grow at double digit rates.
Individuals inherently face increased risk when abroad â€“ whether it is simply not speaking the same language, or being unfamiliar with the location, customs, or laws. Though terrorism tends to be top of mind, results from a 2015 survey by YouGov revealed that the top risks to business travellers were road traffic accidents, crime and data theft.
Unsurprisingly, natural disasters also present an imminent threat of major travel disruption, particularly in Asia. According to the UN, a person living in Asia-Pacific is twice as likely to be affected by a natural disaster compared to a person in Africa, almost six times as likely as compared to someone from Latin America, and 30 times more likely to suffer from a disaster as compared to someone in North America or Europe.
Regardless of the risk scenario, companies should have in place robust travel risk management policies that enable them to provide urgent assistance in a crisis. At the forefront of any businessâ€™ effective travel risk mitigation strategy, is a recognised legal duty of care to employees inclusive of clear procedures to respond rapidly in a risky situation. A companyâ€™s failure to provide an employee with the necessary assistance â€“ be it emergency medical care, a timely evacuation, or even providing a regular flow of information â€“ could create legal liability and reputational damage, ultimately impacting profits.
Fortunately, there are sufficient tools to help companies manage travel risk. Apart from allowing a company to assess trips in accordance with its risk appetite, these tools provide an instant snapshot of every executive travelling to a certain city, all of their onward movements via real-time traveller tracking using GPS, the hotels they reside in and specialist crisis services such as medical care or evacuation. By implementing these tools, leading businesses can demonstrate they take their duty of care seriously, and differentiate themselves from others.
Previously, a majority of established hotels in Asia were not found in designated corporate travel booking systems, which explained why employees arranged their travels independently. This gave rise to situations where businesses were unable to effectively track which flights its employees were taking, or which hotels they had chosen to stay in.
Ensuring employees book through designated booking channels allows for an accurate picture of their location, and having on hand data that can be pushed to the companyâ€™s emergency medical provider â€“ which can eventually be used to rearrange transport alternatives for employees if flights are cancelled or airports closed.
The frequency of catastrophic events in recent years provides clear impetus for business leaders to be proactive about protecting their employees. Without adequate travel risk policies, employers are unable to fulfil their duty of care in time of crisis and only risk damaging consequences for their employees.
Todd Arthur is the managing director, Asia-Pacific of Hotel Reservation Service. HRS is a global hotel solutions provider with more than 40,000 corporate customers worldwide. His core responsibilities include setting the business direction, driving organic growth with new and existing customers across APAC markets, establishing strategic partnerships, and talent development.Â www.hrs.com
This article is written by Todd Arthur