The Travel Manager’s Guide to Dealing with a Crisis
Travel can be an unpredictable beast: flights get delayed, baggage goes astray, passports and laptops go missing and, sometimes, local or global disruption can spill over into your travellers’ plans. Planning is the travel manager’s best friend – enabling you to remain calm and deal confidently with the crisis.
Whether you are helping your travellers find local medical services after they fall ill, or are trying to get them home after a terrorist attack, travel managers need to have good plans and support in place to help manage a crisis.
This begins with risk management, especially if employees are travelling to sites outside the usual destinations. Once you have identified possible risks, you can begin planning your responses – what needs to be done in each instance and how can it be achieved?
Risk assessment won’t just help your travellers; it will help your organisation fulfil its duty of care obligations. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) notes it can also make a big difference to your organisation’s profitability by reducing downtime and losses.
You’ll need to consider security, medical, cultural, activity-related, country-specific, environmental and individual risk. It may be the case that you’ll need to equip staff with pre-travel health checks, cultural awareness training or personal security training.
Asking travellers to complete a risk questionnaire before they travel can help to ensure they are cognisant of the possible travel risks.
Having identified the risks, you’re in a position to start planning how to deal with them.
Understanding what support you can expect from your Travel Management Company (TMC) will be crucial. For example, if a traveller needs support outside office hours, is the TMC available to provide what’s needed? If the traveller requires emergency repatriation, how quickly can your TMC respond? What additional support and expertise does the TMC offer?
Here at Travel Counsellors, we support our corporate travel customers with traveller tracking, a staffed duty office monitoring world events 24 hours a day and out-of-hours support.
Agree the Ground Rules
Your travel and risk management policies will need to allow for the following considerations:
• When – and to whom – is a traveller routinely expected to check in when travelling?
• How soon – and to whom – should the traveller communicate in the case of a problem or an emergency situation? How can they request help?
• How quickly are travellers required to respond to a communication from you or your TMC?
Automated traveller tracking by your TMC can help take the pressure off, but line managers may also wish to be involved. Talk through your options internally and with your TMC to establish a close working partnership where everyone understands their roles and that works for everyone.
It will pay off if and when the worst happens.
Monitoring is vital if you are to respond to events quickly. Travel managers need to understand how quickly – and proactively – their TMC will react when a crisis occurs.
Given the personalised nature of the service delivered by Travel Counsellors for Business, you can be sure that we are quick to respond in a crisis.
One of the most important things to consider in your crisis planning will be communication – how are you going to communicate with the traveller in the crisis situation?
Anyone who tried to get a phone connection to the east coast of North America in the hours following the 2001 September 11th attacks will know that communication networks can be the first to suffer in crisis.
Talk to your IT Department about what secondary mechanisms can be put in place for communication in an emergency.
As an employer, the organisation’s duty of care doesn’t stop when your Travel Management Company has brought the traveller home. What support is in place to support them after the event and ensure they are fit to return to work?
HR, senior management and the travel team will need to agree this policy, but the implementation of it will very much depend on the needs of the individual traveller.
If you would like to beef up your travel risk assessments or the support you offer your business travellers, speak with your Travel Counsellor.
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