The impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the travel industry is unprecedented and has even put the most robust travel risk management plans to test. If there are key take-aways from recent events, they are to expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything, according to Matthew DeMaris, global product leader for FCM Secure, who has been at the forefront of the crisis since the start.
In his role, Mr DeMaris provides health and safety solutions for clients also facilitating relationships with travel risk partners and subject matter expertise to clients on their travel risk management strategies. He is also leader and founder of FCM’s Global Travel Risk Committee. In a post for FCM Travel Solutions he highlights some key takeaways for travel managers and customers and the learnings of a travel management company (TMC).
We can plan, plan and plan, but it is only once a crisis like the coronavirus hits us that we can turn those plans into practice. But not all crises are the same and this pandemic has forced industry to learn quickly and seen new pages quickly added to the crisis plan. So, what has Covid-19 taught us?
Well, for travel managers, Mr DeMaris says the foundation remains to “have a plan in place and assign clear roles and responsibilities to your key risk stakeholders”. He notes that responsibility for managing risk does not fall on any one person or department and therefore a robust risk management team “should include individuals from operations, legal, communications and HR”.
In his experience of the pandemic, he acknowledges that the clients who have had the most effective responses to Covid-19 formed their crisis team early and made informed decisions on how to mitigate their risk.
Despite the planning there has also been a lack of foresight and Mr DeMaris notes that businesses need to recognise and communicate the tools they have prior to a crisis occurring. He highlights there is no point having a range of tools to help them successfully navigate a crisis if understanding behind the function and accessibility of these tools is actually pretty low.
“At FCM, we saw a sharp spike in requests for access to Secure, our risk management tool, at the start of the pandemic, despite the tool being available for some time,” he explains, suggesting that in order to be prepared for future events, businesses should practice checking security updates and traveller whereabouts via their risk management tool.
Then there is automation, which Mr DeMaris describes as “key”, noting that if you can put measures in place to automate a crisis response process, “you’ll be in good shape for the future”. But, he also advises that you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help.
As for the TMC’s learnings, he acknowledges that the past weeks have “certainly put our business to the test” and shown that a crisis “can come in many shapes and sizes”. FCM has always spoken out on topics about traveller stress and road warrior retention and looking forward Mr DeMaris predicts that additional health risk factors will now also play a role in how travel management companies can help clients moving forward.