Delivering on duty of care – the coronavirus crisis means one of the biggest topics in business travel right now is travel risk management

There remains a state of uncertainty in the world right now. In many countries the first steps after lockdowns have been very tentative and concern is seemingly increasing that we may not yet have a hold on a global pandemic that has changed all of our lives. Every task we complete has some form of risk assessment, but right now risk management is front and foremost in our minds as we make simple decisions about leaving our home environment.

Risk management has been a key aspect of every business travel programme, but is something that will be much more evident as corporate travel rises once more. The business travel sector has had years of experience in dealing with unplanned disruptions ranging from epidemics and volcanic eruptions to inclement weather and geopolitical unrest. They may not be on scale of the current unprecedented situation, but being prepared for unpredictable situations remains a key platform for making any travel programme effectively support duty of care obligations.

In the ‘new normal’ it is now more than ever before, important – even perhaps essential – to put travellers at the heart of travel policies and know what’s important to them. Some travellers will have concerns about returning to business travel and understanding and addressing these concerns will be key to reigniting corporate travel in the post Covid-19 environment.

A new whitepaper ‘Effective Travel Risk Management – Foundations and Tools’ from travel management company FCM Travel Solutions says there are six main foundations of an effective travel risk management programme.

These range from having a clear, up to date and well-defined travel policy to ensure expectations are clear regarding the type of travel allowed and maintaining visibility of traveller whereabouts; ensuring relevant travel insurance coverage; to ensuring travellers have access to the right tools and support lines that ensure they have access to high quality safety and security services.

They also include the guidance to consolidate all bookings through one channel to ensure complete visibility of where your travellers are, and the ability to communicate quickly in the event of a crisis. Alongside this there is an increased importance “to use reputable suppliers, particularly for hotels, airlines and car hire companies,” because this will “affect a traveller’s overall travel experience and the ability to assist in emergency situations”.

The whitepaper’s release follows the publication of the ‘State of the Market’, a joint initiative of FCM Travel Solutions, and sister SME-specialist business travel provider Corporate Traveller, in which 1,600 business travel managers, bookers and travellers at FCM and Corporate Traveller clients in EMEA, Asia, the Americas, India, Australia and New Zealand shared their insight in a survey conducted by FCM’s consulting arm 4th Dimension.

It found that most companies would resume business travel when deemed safe to do so by governments and the majority would also revamp their travel policies to reflect increased duty of care considerations post Covid-19. The first phase was featured in this The Blue Swan Daily article.

The second stage, conducted a month later in Jun-2020, highlighted shifts in business travel intentions as countries continue to review lockdown restrictions, implement quarantine periods or air corridors, and airlines and hotels introduce hygiene measures.

Asked to rank which triggers would prompt resuming business travel, easing or lifting border restrictions still came top with 93% of respondents saying it has significant or some impact. However, the second trigger (89%) is ‘our organisation deems it safe to travel and this is reflected in our travel policy’.

In terms of changes to travel policy post Covid-19, 59% of participants said that traveller and supplier health and hygiene factors would be top priority. Duty of care obligations ranked the second most dominant area for change (44% of respondents). Consolidation of bookings through a TMC also emerged as a priority with 21% saying that they would not shift to higher levels of online booking adoption.

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