Companies have a duty of care to keep their business travelers safe before, during, and after work-related trips. With proper preparation, you can mitigate many of the hazards posed by security threats, political instability, health risks, natural disasters, and other issues worldwide.
Follow these best practices for developing a comprehensive travel risk management plan tailored to your organization and travelers.
Assess Organizational Risk Profile
Start by analyzing the typical risk profile for your company based on where employees travel, how often, and the nature of activities. Frequent trips to volatile regions or high-risk countries equal greater exposure than occasional travel to stable places.
If employees routinely engage with cash, valuable equipment, or sensitive information during trips, that intensifies risk further. Your plan should align with the actual dangers your travelers face.
Research Destination Risks
Do in-depth research on the primary destinations your company visits and emerging locations on the travel horizon. Examine:
- Health and security advisories issued by government agencies
- Political instability risks
- Crime rates
- Prevalence of diseases like malaria, dengue fever, or yellow fever
- Potential for natural disasters and typical climate/weather issues
- Local logistical challenges with accommodations, transportation, and infrastructure
- Cultural practices and risks like road safety or alcohol issues
- Accessibility limitations for employees with disabilities
Studying destination-specific hazards allows you to create trip plans that minimize risk.
Establish Pre-Trip Protocols
Your travel risk plan should define the required steps to take before every work trip. For example:
- Register trip details with the embassy/consulate of the destination country
- Complete a travel authorization form outlining dates, locations, lodging, transportation, and activities
- Verify the company’s global insurance policy covers the traveler and trip specifics
- Confirm required immunizations are up to date
- Check visa/passport requirements and obtain needed documents
- Research health/security threats in detail for the specific route and itinerary
Following consistent pre-trip protocols gets travelers and companies prepared with resources to manage any situation.
Provide Safety & Security Training
Deliver mandatory training, potentially through e-learning modules, to educate employees on maintaining vigilance and responding appropriately in risky scenarios abroad.
Training topics might cover:
- Situational awareness tips and avoiding unsafe areas
- Best practices for hotel and transport safety
- Securing sensitive company information and assets
- Mitigating robbery/assault risks
- Non-verbal communication tools for regions where employees don’t speak the language
- What to do during civil unrest, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks
- Procedures for notifying the company and authorities in an emergency
Preparedness training empowers travelers to protect themselves when away.
Define Approval Criteria for High-Risk Trips
Classify countries into low, medium, and high-risk levels to clarify expectations for travel to more dangerous places.
Impose trip approval requirements like:
- VP approval for high-risk destinations
- Mandatory security personnel for public company events/tradeshows in medium-risk countries
- Prohibiting travel for medium-high risk countries during active security threats
Clearly articulated parameters ensure travel aligns with the potential for risk.
Provide 24/7 Emergency Resources
Give employees resources to tap worldwide for emergency assistance. Options include:
- Multilingual 24/7 crisis hotline staffed by the company or through a vendor
- Global incident response services that can provide on-ground coordination and logistical support
- Travel assistance cards with phone numbers, account details, and contact information for access to services like emergency medical evacuation
- Check-in protocols via SMS text or your business travel management app when traveling in higher-risk regions
- Emergency communication products like satellite phones for regions with poor infrastructure
With 24/7 emergency support, travelers can get urgent help anywhere.
Encourage In-Trip Precautions
Provide travelers with precautions to take during the trip itself to remain safe, like:
- Avoiding routine patterns (i.e., taking the same route to the office each day)
- Securing sensitive items in the hotel safe and using RFID-blocking bags
- Checking in with family and office regularly
- Monitoring local media and embassy alerts
- Carrying emergency contact cards and contingency cash/credit cards
- Keeping digital and paper copies of passport/identification separate
- Exercising extra caution around crowds and high-profile sites
Staying vigilant during travel helps mitigate risks.
Analyze Post-Trip Incident Reports
Require employees to submit incident reports after any safety or security issues abroad. Analyze the reports to identify patterns, determine root causes, and implement policy changes to prevent recurrence.
Continuously refine your risk management plan based on real-life incidents and close calls.
Review and Update the Plan Regularly
At a minimum, re-evaluate your travel risk management plan annually to incorporate new threats, respond to destination changes, and leverage new products and services.
Conduct periodic audits to confirm adherence to protocols. Update training content to address emerging scenarios employees may encounter.
Keep the plan current and actionable.
While business travel inherently carries risks, companies can take proactive steps to protect their road warriors through each stage of a trip.
Prioritizing traveler safety pays dividends in engagement, retention, and performance.
Follow these best practices to develop a plan tailored to your organization’s needs and tolerance for risk.