Travel risk assessment — why you should do it and how to do it

Posted: 02 November 2020
Travel Manager Conducting Travel Risk Assessment

Early travellers relied on maps that only reflected areas already explored and documented. Those maps often used pictures of mythical monsters — fire-breathing dragons on land, the many-tentacled kraken at sea — to indicate the dangers of going somewhere unknown. Consider it an ancient form of travel risk assessment.

Modern business travellers may not fear monsters, but they face an array of very real potential risks including:

  • Natural disasters
  • Labor strikes
  • Civil unrest
  • Public health emergencies
  • Transportation disruptions
  • Public health crisis

These and other issues can affect employees’ health and wellbeing when they travel on business. Travel risk management is a proactive, consistent, end-to-end approach to protect your people from travel-related risks. By protecting your employees, you protect the resilience of the organisation as a whole. Travel risk management is a powerful, programmatic way companies practice their duty of care obligations to keep employees safe when traveling on the organisation’s behalf. Knowing there is a plan to reduce risks and take action under changing circumstances also can inspire employee confidence in leaving their homes to close deals and service customers.

Where are the security risks for your business travellers?

The travel risk assessment

Some travel risks are systemic, such as unsettled political situations that could drive unrest in a nation. Others are event-driven such as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico or a transportation worker strike in Paris. Some are more personalised health risks to the traveller, such as COVID-19 or infectious diseases that require a need for vaccinations in a certain region. Environmental conditions could also acutely impact a traveller with a medical condition (poor air quality and lung conditions, for instance).

A travel risk assessment is a detailed analysis of the potential risks business travellers could face on a trip. It forms the basis of travel risk management policy making and the operational planning for helping travellers avoid issues or get home safely.

Where is your starting point? Think about typical domestic and international travel. Where have your travellers historically gone? For instance, if you’re in the financial industry, consider risks for the major financial centres around the world such as London or New York City. Are you a global manufacturer? Map your plant locations. Do you have key customers your people service regularly? This is all data that your travel management company (TMC) should be able to provide.

With this destination map, you have a framework for further investigation. What high risks or travel warnings are clearly associated with those places, such as hurricanes in certain coastal areas or wildfires in others? 

As your risk picture comes into focus, remember that the end of the assessment phase is the beginning of the travel policy adjustment phase. Here, the travel manager — working with other stakeholders such as human resources and senior management — reviews existing travel policies and processes with the goal of mitigating those risks. Maybe you need to limit travellers under certain circumstances or to specific destinations. Perhaps some trips need added layers of approval to assess how important they really are to the business. For some cities, you may need to broaden the range of lodgings considered compliant in order to keep people out of downtown areas to avoid unrest.

Once you’ve worked all this out, you’re still not really done. You need to communicate these concerns and policies to travellers. Much of this can be built right into the booking tools, so that travellers are alerted when they begin their travel plans. Other ways to gain visibility for policy changes include making brief presentations at various staff meetings where you can fully explain the rationale for changes and reassure travellers directly about the mitigation of risks.

Travel managers also need to recognise the dynamic nature of travel risk. Levels of risk can rise and fall. A key destination may be safe for most of the year and then face a natural disaster that immediately changes travel risk. You need to establish an assessment process to stay up to date. That will include a communication plan for any policy changes, as well as travel advice and tips to help travellers in need as the situation evolves

Role of TMC

One of the main rules of travel risk management is to centralise all your travel bookings through a single business travel partner like Egencia. This gives you one place to turn to locate your people when a crisis erupts. And in a full-blown crisis, your travel management partner vastly extends the resources you can deploy to get people home safely. For instance, the Egencia Travel Tracker lets you know where your travellers are when situations emerge.

The Egencia online portal and mobile app can implement policies right into the booking process. Policy responses can easily scale and extended approval loops can be programmed for certain trips. And, if the situation demands it, some destinations can be temporarily blocked.

The Egencia mobile app provides another travel risk management tool. We can alert travellers to breaking news that could impact them so they can start making arrangements immediately. We also deliver tips and alerts worth monitoring for a certain destination.

Stay informed, stay successful

Your TMC can and should be a critical part of making travel risk assessment an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. At Egencia, we’re monitoring data constantly, including drawing on the resources of Expedia Group as it surveys the larger world of travel beyond business

Travel risk assessment is a never-ending process. We help you spot the modern-day dragons and krakens so your travellers can avoid them.

Looking for better business travel solutions? Get in touch with us.