Travel is not just about getting from A to B. It is also about assuming responsibility for the safety of the travellers themselves. Those responsible for travel in companies will also – often in tandem with HR – be responsible for traveller welfare. Since the events of 9/11, this has come up more often on people’s radar screens.
As well as the catastrophic effects on those directly involved in the incidents on that day, it brought into sharp relief the need for all companies to know the whereabouts of those who are travelling on business for their companies. The events brought into focus the benefits of a company travel policy and that employees comply with it.
Those companies that had either booked travel and hotels on behalf of their employees or had done so through their designated agents were able to locate travellers relatively easily. Those employees who had made their arrangements themselves either by telephone or by the internet might have saved some pounds off the tickets but probably added years to their partners, who bore much angst during the time wondering where they were and whether they were safe. As a result, many travel companies have now introduced software which enables all travellers from a company to be located.
In addition, those events brought attention to the need for risk assessment. Many companies follow Foreign Office advice but there are dangerous situations in countries that do not qualify for listing. In September 2001, New York City was not considered a hazardous place to travel.
There are firms that specialise in offering advice for managers of employees – everything from where to hire a car to where you should always be accompanied by a local guide. Courses are available for those whose work means they regularly have to travel to dangerous destinations.
However, despite all the care, attention and training that you can organise, some people will still get themselves into sticky situations. The professional security industry says this is because many people expose themselves to danger as a result of what they leave behind at home when they travel – their common sense.
In addition to overt physical risk, travel exposes companies to commercial risk.
Laptop theft and commercial espionage are two such examples. How many times have you sat next to someone on a plane or train and heard a conversation between two strangers and then realised that they were not really ‘strangers’ to you at all? Just because you don’t recognise the face, don’t assume that the others don’t know the companies and people you are discussing or perhaps writing about on your laptop.
But for all the prevention and care we can all exercise, there are some things that will always be out of control. The Boxing Day events reminded us that as much as we can all work hard and take care to minimise our own and our colleagues’ exposure to risk, there will always be some incidents that are just not within our control.
Editor, Business Travel World