Recent attacks highlight new travel risk reality

Companies and travelers have to be ready for risk anywhere.

The March 22 terrorist attacks in Brussels are a stark reminder of the new reality in corporate travel risk management: Your company and your travelers have to be ready for risk anywhere.

“Journeys that we once labeled as low risk, such as a business trip to Brussels or Paris, now must be considered higher risk,” said Martin Weisskirchen, vice president of BCD Travel Global Crisis Management.

“Traditional risk-assessment factors such as a traveler’s destination and experience on the road are no longer sufficient on their own. Today, companies must also be prepared to react to risky situations in any location—including in places we’ve traditionally considered safe,” Weisskirchen explained. “Plus, it’s vital for travelers to take on a larger role in ensuring their safety and communicating their status to employers.”

It’s still essential for companies to identify, assess and mitigate risk before employees travel. But now reaction time is as important as planning. Corporate travel programs have to be ready to make decisions quickly; communicate with travelers and executives; and act as a situation unfolds.

Weisskirchen recommended corporate travel managers and security officers consider these questions as they begin gauging their readiness:

  • Is your company prepared to make quick decisions when reaction time is crucial?
  • Are you prepared to react at any given time on any day of the year?
  • Do you have an efficient method for assessing travelers’ safety and keeping them in communication with your company during a crisis?

To be truly prepared, he said, corporate travel programs must expand travel risk management to include:

Clearly identifying and empowering decision makers for 24/7/365 readiness. “A company needs to know who will be in charge in a crisis, and someone—but not always the same person—needs to be on call 24/7 and have the authority to put the established travel risk management plan into action,” Weisskirchen said. This includes establishing a crisis communication protocol. Who communicates with whom about what, and by which communication channel?

Setting duty of care protocols for your company and defining “duty of loyalty” responsibilities for your travelers. Here’s Weisskirchen’s example to explain duty of loyalty: Your booking information indicates 25 travelers are in a city where terrorists have just staged an attack. Your travelers understand their risk-management responsibility and know to check in by calling or sending a text to a designated number. You hear from 23 travelers, so you can focus your resources on locating and verifying the safety of the two who haven’t checked in. You can get help to the travelers who need it with much greater speed and efficiency.

Training travelers to reduce risk in a variety of known scenarios—everything from being mugged (still the most common traveler crisis) to a terrorist attack in a major city. “Educating and setting expectations with employees has never been more important,” Weisskirchen said.

A company can only be “reactive” to a travel crisis if it already has a “proactive” plan in place. “A foundational travel risk management plan is essential,” Weisskirchen said. “Without that underlying plan, a company doesn’t have the capabilities to react, adapt and evolve as risk scenarios change.”

Share this:

Stay in the know,
even on the go

Never want to miss a thing?

We'll get you the latest news, trends, insights and BCD news right in your inbox.