Travel Risk Management for Business Travellers: What to Consider Before a Trip
Business travel is a perk that many employees look forward to when it’s part of their role. But there’s a lot of planning and policy involved in making these trips happen and ensuring that they run as smoothly as possible, and a big part of this is travel risk management.
Travel risks can range from minor delays to severe journey disruptions, all of which need to be carefully considered before a business trip so that employers can keep their staff safe. In this article, we’re going to explain some of the reasons why travel risk management is so important, and then explain how to create a reliable travel risk management plan.
In this article:
What is Travel Risk Management?
Travel risk management is an approach to managing the risks posed by corporate travel or incentive travel. It is part of a business's duty of care to their employees to ensure that they are protected in the event of an emergency whilst they are travelling.
There are two different elements to travel risk management; preventing risk before the trip and responding to unexpected events whilst the trip is taking place. The former will hopefully prevent the latter from happening, but it’s important to have an emergency action plan in place so that any problems can be dealt with quickly.
Business travel risk management is influenced by the ISO standard ISO 31030:2021, which was updated in 2021 after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic added another layer of risk to travelling abroad. This standard provides a framework for creating a travel risk management plan, but also outlines the advised steps that you should take to complete a risk assessment before a business trip and how you should respond to common travel risks.
The kinds of risks that business travel might involve include everything from transport delays to natural disasters. No matter how small the chance of a risk is, a travel risk management plan must prepare for all eventualities so that harm and disruption can be reduced as much as possible if something bad does happen.
Travel risk management is usually done by a specialist travel manager, but if a company doesn’t work with or have one of these, it’s the responsibility of the HR department. In some cases, it may just involve a basic risk assessment and a list of ways in which the company will respond to problems, whilst more comprehensive plans offer more employee support in the event of an issue or emergency.
Why Do You Need Travel Risk Management?
One of the key reasons why companies need travel risk management is because they have a legal duty of care to their employees to keep them safe when they’re travelling for work. There may also be other regulations and obligations that they need to comply with when providing business travel plans for their employees, and a travel risk assessment and policy helps to cover all of these.
Travel risk management is also important because it shows employees that their company cares about them. By completing a risk assessment before each business trip, employees have peace of mind that potential problems have been considered and actions will have been taken to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
It can also help improve employee performance on business trips, as they don’t have to worry about things going wrong whilst they’re travelling and can instead focus on what they’re there to achieve.
Another reason why you need travel risk management is that it gives employees access to important trip information before they travel. The travel manager will have conducted risk assessment research in order to plan the trip, and the employee can then read this and feel prepared for any potential risks, as well as knowing how their company will respond if something goes wrong.
Having a business trip organised by a travel manager also means that there will be someone keeping an eye on things like transport delays, changing weather conditions and even political events that may impact travel. This means that employees don’t have to worry about monitoring these things themself, and instead just need to follow instructions if plans change.
You also need travel risk management because it provides high levels of care and support if something goes wrong whilst they’re travelling for work. By having plans in place for things like emergency healthcare or accommodation, you can ensure that employees won’t have to deal with poor service and experiences if things don’t go as expected.
Travel risk management also often involves giving employees training before they go on a business trip so that they know what to do in certain unexpected scenarios. You need this training to keep your employees safe, but also because it will help to manage the outcome of unplanned situations, as staff will be prepared for how to react which can reduce the harm or disruption that it causes.
From a business perspective, travel risk management allows you to do business in locations that might be considered high-risk. By having these risks carefully considered for a trip and plans in place to manage them if they occur, it’s much easier to successfully carry out meetings and make deals in places where travel might usually be considered unsafe or difficult to arrange.
Finally, a business needs a travel risk management plan because it can save them a lot of money if something goes wrong when an employee is travelling for work. Having insurance policies in place, designated courses of action for emergencies, and a policy document that staff can consult all help to ensure that a lot of money won’t suddenly have to go on new transport, rearranging meetings or paying for medical bills, which is much more economically efficient.
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How to Create a Travel Risk Management Plan
Companies that require employees to travel for business should have a travel risk management plan in place that can be followed every time a trip needs to be organised.
Before filling out a risk assessment, you should first consider the type of business trip that is taking place.
A lengthy risk assessment only really needs to take place if the trip is going to last several days and involves a lot of travel. If an employee is visiting the same destination, will only be travelling from the airport to a meeting and then back, or is only travelling locally, the same depth of assessment won’t be required.
If an employee is travelling to another brand of your company in a new destination, there will likely already be protocols in place for how they are hosted during the visit. Less organisation will be required from the travel managers' end if this is the case, whereas a trip for a conference, trade show or client meeting needs more planning.
You can create a travel risk management plan by conducting a risk assessment for the trip and recording all of your findings. This will cover any potential risks during the trip and establish what needs to happen if they occur.
One of the most important elements of a travel risk assessment is identifying all of the potential risks during the trip. This is necessary, no matter how small the risk, so that you can have a process in place for how to deal with the situation if it occurs.
Start by looking at the proposed plan for the trip and identify areas where these plans might be disrupted. Transport issues are a key risk to acknowledge here, whether this involves delays, cancellations or an employee being taken to the wrong location. But you can also consider meetings being rescheduled, employees getting ill, issues with accommodation or employees needing to extend their trip.
A significant aspect of travel risk management is crisis management, which covers the risk of a major event impacting business travel. This event could be a natural disaster, political event, security concern, change in entry requirements, widespread disease or health issue, or a serious medical emergency. Travel managers need to have a plan in place to not only respond to these situations if they happen, but also ensure that they’re monitoring them so that employees can be notified as early as possible.
You should also consider the location that the employee is travelling to, and any risks that this poses. For example, certain countries have laws or customs that can impact the behaviours of people of certain identities, some parts of the world are more at risk of political disruption or climate issues, or it can be harder to access reliable transport and healthcare in some parts of the world.
The next step of a business risk assessment for travel is to calculate the likelihood of any of these risks occurring. Things like transport delays have a reasonable chance of impacting a business trip, whilst a natural disaster is very unlikely, even if it’s possible.
The reason that you need to consider the likelihood of these risks is that it impacts the protocols that get established to manage them. Risks that are likely to occur need much more detailed management systems in place, whilst those that are unlikely don’t need to be prepared for in the same way.
Establish Risk Management Procedures
Once risks have been identified and their severity has been calculated, the final step of a travel risk management plan is to establish relevant risk management procedures. These are processes that should be followed if any of the risks happen during a business trip, meaning that the issue can hopefully be fixed as fast as possible.
Start with the risks that are most likely to occur and work your way down the list until you have a plan for every possible situation. You will need to bring travel insurance policies and internal processes for claiming back costs in for these procedures, so make sure that all existing systems are consulted.
As part of establishing these procedures, you should create a guide for employees to follow if they encounter any potential risks. One of the most important things that this should include is contact details for company personnel that can help and the times when these people will be available, as the last thing you want is for an employee to be stuck somewhere without a plan of what to do next.
Create a Risk Management Document
Each new business trip will require its own risk management document based on the risk assessment and procedures that have been established. A copy of this should be given to the employee(s) involved with the trip, and another copy needs to be kept to be consulted in the event of a hazardous or unpredictable situation occurring.
Most of the time, the risks that a travel manager has prepared for never happen and plenty of business trips go off without a hitch. However, in the cases where something bad or unexpected does happen, having a comprehensive risk management plan in place means that action can be taken as quickly as possible, employees are kept safe and happy, and the business has a minimal amount of disruption that they have to deal with to ensure that they’re fulfilling their duty of care.
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