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How to Ensure Safety and Security During Business Travel

Business travel is essential for many globally operating companies these days. While the pandemic undoubtedly encouraged more open-mindedness towards remote work, videoconferencing, and other solutions that could effectively negate the need for frequent corporate business travel, some organizations require people to travel overseas regularly as part of their growth journey.

Whether it’s meeting new clients, attending conferences or expos, delivering pitches to international investors, or pursuing new market opportunities, corporate travel opens many doors for businesses that Teams or Zoom meetings simply cannot replicate. However, employee health, safety, and security are all paramount when embarking overseas.

Prioritize Traveler Safety 

Business travel managers must ensure that all potential travel risks are communicated ahead of time, alerting them to the volatility of certain destinations so they can be proactively managed. 

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Threats range from routine travel disruptions, extreme weather, and natural disasters to political or social instability, disease outbreaks, and global terrorism. Without sounding too dramatic, threats can all potentially jeopardize employee safety while travelling. Not only that, but the consequences can affect the organization too; incidents can lead to operational disruption, financial losses, legal complexities, and other issues. 

Assess and Mitigate Risks 

Business travel managers must conduct a formal risk assessment specific to the destination(s) before anything else. This allows the company to fully understand whether there are any passive or active threats in the area, assess their likelihood and severity, and determine the right preventative measures in case a problem should arise. 

Some factors to consider include:

  • The destination’s political and social climate 
  • Crime rates and terrorism risks
  • The likelihood of natural disasters like earthquakes or extreme weather
  • Accommodation and transportation safety standards
  • Healthcare availability and pandemic and emerging disease outbreaks

Ultimately, if a destination proves too volatile and high-risk, abandoning corporate travel might be the outcome. Risk intelligence tools and travel safety maps can provide valuable data-driven insights to guide decision-making and planning. However, the assessment should also account for other factors such as the trip’s expected duration, time differences, the number of employees, their schedules, connecting travel obligations, and more. 

Travel managers will also need to be aware of the knock-on effect that an elongated absence of an employee could have on business operations. If employees are going to be traveling for extended periods and not able to fulfill all of their day-to-day duties, contingency plans will need to be established.  Entrusting other members of the team to complete tasks in employees’ absence can work, but if this isn’t possible, hiring temporary workers or competent virtual assistants to perform routine tasks can be a cost-effective and productive way to preserve valuable resources.

Develop a Travel Safety Program

Companies that don’t require employees to venture overseas very often may find that establishing full travel safety plans is unnecessary. However, documented plans ensure that every firm – however frequently its employees venture overseas – has a proactive response strategy in place, rather than a reactive one.

A documented travel safety plan provides:

  • Clear policies and procedures for different risk scenarios
  • Mandatory training for employees before travel
  • Guidelines on crisis management and emergency response 
  • Responsibilities and approval processes for travel managers
  • Regular program reviews and updates 

Having such a policy ensures corporate duty of care obligations are upheld and that all legal or regulatory requirements (if relevant) are met. These were deemed the most important priorities for establishing such policies in a recent GBTA survey.

Key Components of an Effective Travel Safety Plan 

While programs will differ based on an organization’s size and specific needs, some core elements should include the following.

Travel Preparedness

  • Research the entry requirements, laws, and cultural differences for destinations compared to your home country.
  • Ensure all traveling employees have proper documentation like visas and insurance before travel.
  • Register travel details with government agencies and company resources if required.
  • Obtain necessary vaccinations and medical advice before setting foot in higher-risk countries.

Security Protocols

  • Establish a process for monitoring risks and receiving real-time alerts on developing situations.
  • Implement adequate procedures for different threat scenarios, balancing enjoyment with prioritizing employee safety above all.
  • Include guidelines on public transportation, high-risk areas or expected weather patterns.
  • Deploy lone worker safety devices and apps to and test them pre-travel.
  • Test emergency communication channels ahead of time.

Health and Safety Provisions

  • Deliver travel health briefings if entering new markets for the first time and for novice travelers who may be unfamiliar with the process.
  • Provide access to company and third-party medical assistance, with clear steps on how to ensure safe usage.
  • Vet and qualify accommodation and transportation providers to ensure legitimacy when arriving at destinations.
  • Provide vital mental health support resources for particularly challenging situations or managing the demands of frequent travel.
  • Establish clarity around alcohol consumption and situational awareness which may be different in certain cultures.

Financial and Asset Protection

  • Invest in enterprise-level corporate travel insurance for unforeseen issues like trip cancellations or accidents.
  • Establish cyber security protocols for working remotely with sensitive data and encrypting channels if on free or unsecured WiFi networks abroad.
  • Guide employees on carrying essential valuables or equipment in busy or built-up areas.
  • Provide access to emergency funds and the ability to quickly replace lost or stolen items, if necessary.

It’s particularly alarming when you consider that, based on recent stats, 46% of US and UK business travelers have employers without established travel security policies, with 22% completely unaware of who to contact should an emergency arise. 

Other Tips for Safe and Secure Business Travel

In addition to a comprehensive travel safety framework, it can help exponentially to develop specific habits and practices to reduce risks and improve overall safety while abroad. 

  1. Make copies of important documents like passports, ID cards, driving licenses, and visas, to ensure that they are accessible in a digital and physical format.
  2. Consider using a VPN-enabled device when accessing shared company systems or resources when using open-source WiFi networks. Even in the U.S. private information is compromised alarmingly easily, based on recent data from Statista.
  3. Make sure all devices are password-protected with complex minimum character requirements and backed up by multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  4. Should you be caught in the crossfire (proverbially speaking) of an incident, remove yourself from danger first before trying to intervene. 

By covering all these bases, a robust program gives employees greater confidence while also protecting the interests of the business.