Caracas in Venezuela, San Pedro Sula in Honduras, San Salvador in El Salvador and Acapulco in Mexico; these are widely reported as the most dangerous cities in the world, with a murder rate above 100 people per 100,000.
They are cities synonymous with crime, gangs and lawlessness, and they are cities to which most corporate travellers will never visit.
Paris, Brussels, Nice, Orlando; these are cities synonymous with law, order and peace. Yet they are cities transformed by terrorism in 2016.
International travel and risk go hand in hand. Whether it be infectious disease, crime, terrorism or even identity theft, travellers understand that they are subject to danger each time they depart overseas, despite their destination.
The corporate travel industry knows this, too. In July 2016, Mike McCormick, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), delivered a stirring speech to GBTA Convention attendees, calling for unity and leadership in the corporate travel industry’s protection of global travellers.
“Using our best efforts as a society, we try to protect all of our global citizens from acts of terrorism. But in a world of 7.3 billion people, we will never fully succeed despite all of our best efforts,” he said.
“And for all of us in the travel industry, we feel a deep sense of ownership when those lives are violently taken in our airports, our skies and places we have all travelled to - both for business and for leisure.” - Mike McCormick, GBTA.
The health and safety of travelling employees is paramount to all travel managers. But how can travelling employees do business in dangerous places when dangerous places are becoming closer to home and harder to predict than ever before?We outline the current state of security in the corporate travel industry, the diversifying risks to corporate travellers, and how travel managers are addressing these in corporate travel programs.
Security and Corporate Travel Today
According to the GBTA, global business travel spending will reach $1.6 trillion USD by 2020. China has surpassed the USA as the leader in corporate travel spend for the first time, and emerging markets like India, Malaysia, Mexico and Turkey are demanding that existing travel programs be revised and scrutinised.
As the corporate travel landscape diversifies, so do the risks posed to business travellers. Identity theft, for example, is fast becoming one of the more prevalent risks to corporate travellers, who are reportedly two to four times more likely to fall victim than non-travelling employees.
Further, the increasing volume of business travellers equates to an increasing number of visits to high-risk countries.
A Collinson Group study found a 52% increase in the number of UK corporate travellers visiting high-risk countries over the 2014-2015 period. According to the report, “In the first half of 2015, [UK] business travellers made 2,477,105 visits to destinations that experienced level three security incidents, compared to 1,634,840 a year earlier.”
Egypt and Israel were cited as countries that saw significantly more incoming corporate travellers, while also suffering category three incidents - including terrorism.
The Collinson Group study also emphasised the emergence of traditionally safer countries as high-risk destinations for corporate travellers.
“In an indication of the fast-changing nature of global events, a number of countries perceived as being traditionally less risky also received level three alerts in the first half of 2015. Denmark, France, Macedonia and the US, for instance, all saw level three incidents occur,” it reads.
“Collinson Group is advising employers to review their corporate travel policies and consider what mechanisms they have in place to respond to a broadening array of emergency scenarios.”
Improving Corporate Traveller Safety
Just about every arm of the corporate travel industry is putting its security process under the microscope. However, much of the discussion surrounding traveller safety is focussed on airport security. Particularly since in 2016, it was reported that the TSA failed to identify 67 out of 70 prohibited items that US Federal undercover investigators smuggled aboard aircraft.
Airport security has also been a focus of innovation in 2016, with United, Delta and American airlines announcing automated security screening to minimise long lines at TSA checkpoints. These carriers recognise that 66.6% of international travellers say airports and flights are the most stressful elements of their travel experience.International conferences are also a focus of renewed security procedures. Richard Knight, Director of Marketing for the Americas at Visit Scotland, says “event professionals are looking at the infrastructure they’re surrounded with, what resources are at their disposal, and what communication protocols are in place in they need to deal with a security-related emergency. What happened in Nice could happen in San Francisco tomorrow.”
Travel Managers and Traveller Safety
Surprisingly, US and UK corporate travellers aren’t showing a lot of faith in their employers when it comes to risk management and emergency procedures. A survey by the GBTA found 46% of surveyed business travellers worked for employers with “no clear travel security policies.”
It also found that 36% of travellers had little confidence their employer would provide the correct information during an overseas emergency, and 22% of travellers had no idea who to contact in an emergency situation.
They need to educate employees on emergency procedures and use a risk management platform that supports it. Employee tracking technology, location reporting, risk alerts and passport control are critical to an effective risk management policy, in order to safeguard employees against the diversifying dangers in corporate travel today.
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