Travel Risk Management: Are You Prepared for a Crisis?
If you know that business travel is not without risks and potential for crisis, then you need to read this article. In this article we will talk about crisis management and containment as it relates to travelers and travel managers. The aim of this article is to share the collective knowledge about crisis management and greatly improve your ability to identify and manage crises as well as improve the efficiency of your business travel.
Throughout this article I will discuss travel risk and crisis management myths, plans and options so you can immediately compare or improve your travel risk management system for travelers or the travel management department.
A crisis is by definition something you did not have a plan for or something you were not prepared for. In addition, it can be a chain of events that together lead to a crisis. Events or problems that happen, for which you have a plan and strategy, are just an accident.
The first thing to clarify is the difference between crisis management and leadership. Most importantly, which is more important?
Crisis management is about responding to the event/s that threaten your business, travelers or travel activity. Drives the event and you follow up with plans, decisions, and actions.
On the other hand, crisis leadership is about getting ahead of events and issues to prevent, manage and even contain impact on your work or business travel activities. While management is part of the demand for leadership, your actions and participation drive results rather than a passive wait-and-do approach with pure crisis management.
Crisis leadership is the less practiced of the two, but it is the most important in terms of results, risk minimization, and impact. If you take nothing else out of this session, your focus should always be on crisis leadership, not crisis management.
There are many myths and half-truths about crises, upheavals and threats within the travel management industry. Much of this misinformation originated from the travelers themselves, the media, travel managers, friends and family or so-called “experts”.
For example, many travelers and planners focus on terrorism. In fact, you stand a very, very small chance of being exposed to or being directly affected by a terrorist act. This does not mean that you should dismiss it as a threat completely but it should not dominate your plans or operations if it is not a relative threat to you and your travelers. On the contrary, almost everyone ignores car accidents. However, they occur frequently, can have a devastating effect on travelers and are the least common scheme featured in corporate travel management departments.
Travelers and travel managers must be prepared, educated and have supportive plans in place for any event that may delay, disrupt or harm the traveler or the company.
The most common events include:
- Car accidents
- Airline delays or cancellations
- Airport closures or disruptions
- transportation delays
- bad weather
- Illness and disease
- Petty crimes
- Hotel fires
- political differences
- Demonstrations and gatherings
Car accidents Within your country it can be stressful and dangerous but on a foreign business trip it can be a hundred times more challenging and dangerous. Consider language, local authorities, first responders, healthcare level, families and supports in your plans and initial response.
Airline delays and cancellations. It happens all the time but it’s not just a management response. You may need to consider safety, transportation, quarantine, security threats, government response and widespread suspension of services to overcome the problem and keep travelers safe.
Airport closures or disruptions. Failed systems, electrical problems, threats, weather, construction, etc. can even prevent you from making it to your flight. Consider the impact this will have on your plans and how the traveler will need to extend their stay, move to an alternative airport, or find accommodation.
all others Transportation delays and disruptions It can create a crisis when everyone no longer has access to trains, buses, major roads or even water transport. Create a plan and add it to your immediate decision making process.
2010 and the start of 2011 saw travel of all kinds affected Natural disasters and weather. Weather and natural forces have had and always will affect travellers. It is happening and will continue to happen. It’s deeply troubling how unprepared travelers and businesses are for volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and bad weather in general.
People get sick Or feel unwell all the time. This goes double greatly when traveling. Care criteria, language, access, cost, complications, selection and many other site concerns will determine the traveler’s vulnerability. One “one size fits all” plan or solution will fail and you need to be aware of these issues immediately as an affected traveler emerges.
crimes It is the reality of any city in the world. However, travelers rarely know about the dangers and may fall prey to thieves and criminals. Losing phones, money, and other items may seem less likely to constitute a crisis, but when you’re abroad, injured, or unable to speak the local language, all of these minor occurrences can create major anxiety for business travelers. This can be amplified if you have a senior executive or group of executives affected.
Hotel fires And emergencies are more common than most people think. The immediate threat to an individual is fairly clear but the impact that a lack of accommodation options could have from a temporary or permanent hotel closure is a much larger concern. This was displayed graphically during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (unusually as the event) when most of the best/favorite hotels were now unavailable in a prime part of the city. This removed thousands of rooms for business travelers and forced many to cancel or drastically change travel plans simply because there were no suitable accommodation options, whether affected by the events or not.
Any event changes political stability From a location or area or resulting in thousands of people being taken out onto the streets poses a risk to your business and travellers’ travel plans. It can occur spontaneously or take time to develop. Immediate dangers and constant turbulence can have a significant impact on your business or traveler.
Again, planning, preparing, and thinking about these issues will greatly reduce impact and improve your business as well.
Now that we’ve cleared up the most common misconceptions, let’s focus on crisis management and containment.
The key to successful crisis management is planning, training, plans, decision-making and adaptability.
Because of the issues covered previously, you now have a better insight into how and why planning is important to remove the most emotional issues from the realities of real business threats and events.
Planning needs to include multiple departments and perspectives to be truly effective. One of the biggest weaknesses that I see regularly is that departments continue to manage travel risks through multiple departments with multiple plans. The inputs and the plan must be unified. Depending on the company, this may include directors of travel, security, human resources, finance, marketing, C-group and operations.
All schematics must be constantly updated, positioned, aided in the decision-making process and modules sufficient to extract items quickly and effectively. Modern and efficient plans embrace technology. Quick and efficient access to information, along with triggering updates are the hallmarks of a modern sustainable plan, no matter the size of the problem or company.
No plan is effective without training and rehearsal. Training, whether through simulations, drills or live, full-scale exercises is vital to the success of any crisis situation. Such sessions need not be tedious or overly complex but should involve travel managers and planners along with the more common crisis and emergency managers.
Increasingly, training is becoming a mandatory requirement for key positions and roles. Can be linked to internal HR processes but must support business objectives and be measurable on how risks to people, business, brand and travel requirements are minimized.
While the plan creates a framework for crisis decision-making, teams can learn a lot from coaching on how and when to adapt their plans. How the team interacts, strengths, weaknesses, leaders, followers, limitations, tools and many more planned and surprising results are possible with effective coaching.
No plan will fully program all events, issues and options available for every reasonable travel delay, disruption or crisis. You must be able to adapt and evolve from the original plan and intention. This can only be achieved through planning, plans and training.
Solutions So what do I need in my plan?
Here are the best travel risk management content for your plan:
- Objective (the most important part of any travel policy)
- priority / precedence
- Authority/governing bodies
The procedure is likely to cover:
- Executive decision making
- Pre-flight supervisor
- Road transport
- Safety and security
- Health and wellness
- SOP/procedures are running
- Travel monitoring/tracking
- Threat/risk levels
- shelter in place
- Deportations / evictions
- Management body
Don’t forget that your risk assessment will need to include the key elements:
- the passenger
Here you are. Now that you know what is required, how do you assess your current plans and readiness?
You now have the most relevant issues and areas to focus on that will reduce or contain the majority of accidents you may encounter for travelers, you will be safer, your business will be more profitable and your costs will be contained by reducing your exposure to costly crisis events.
We’ve debunked common myths about travel threats, defined the difference between crisis management and leadership, and outlined plans and options so you can instantly compare or improve your travel risk management system for travelers or the travel management department. Review your plans and make immediate improvements.
You will know when you have an effective crisis management system for your travel risk management strategy when you will have little or no crisis.
You may have many events or incidents but you have a plan, you are prepared and your decision making is fast and consistent. If not, you have failed and will be running from one crisis to the next on a regular basis.