5 steps to help manage heightened risks for business travellers

Business travellers waiting to travel in a world of uncertainty. Picture: Supplied

Business travellers waiting to travel in a world of uncertainty. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 12, 2024


Recent events have highlighted just how precarious corporate travel can be these days.

According to FCM GM Bonnie Smith it’s becoming a tricky challenge for companies whose employees are constantly criss-crossing the planet.

FCM is a global corporate travel services provider in 95 countries.

Smith said that these corporate travellers are facing an extraordinarily complex mix of risks that could put a serious pinch on their travels.

For instance, Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves throughout the industry, with rerouted flights, economic upheaval and nuclear fears compounding the dangers.

The upcoming US elections could reshuffle foreign policies and hotspots like the Suez Canal and the Middle East and demonstrates how logistical snags in one area can massively disrupt travel plans worldwide.

“This volatility poses massive headaches for businesses legally required to protect their globetrotting personnel under duty of care rules.

“The old playbook relying on rigid, reactive policies is ill-equipped for today's volatility. Instead, a holistic strategy centred on preparedness, flexibility and employee empowerment is sorely needed,” said Smith.

The business travel expert said that businesses can mitigate these risks by shifting to a proactive, flexible and traveller-focused duty of care approach.

“Rather than just reacting to emergencies, we need to anticipate risks and empower employees with training, real-time guidance and the freedom to make safety-conscious decisions.

“Giving travellers a voice in the policies that affect their wellbeing is paramount,” said the business travel expert.

Smith also said that it’s time for travel managers to frankly re-evaluate policies in candid discussions with teams and partners since prioritising traveller readiness, safety resources and flexibility is key to safeguarding employees.

Here are some steps to follow to take duty of care into the realities of 2024, according to Smith.

Step 1: Listen to your travellers

Instead of guessing the risks, get the full download from your frequent flyers. Their first-hand experiences will reveal unique challenges South African business travellers face, like dealing with crime hotspots.

A good travel management company (TMC) can facilitate these insider conversations.

Step 2: Get travel data sorted

You can't communicate effectively during an emergency if employee information is out-of-date. Make sure you know exactly where your travelling teams are and how to reach them. A TMC system centralises this data.

Step 3: Game plan for hairy situations

What if civil unrest erupts mid-trip? Work with your TMC to develop response playbooks for the dicey scenarios your business travellers could potentially encounter based on their itineraries.

Step 4: Lean on your tech

When the proverbial hits the fan, you need powerful duty of care tech in your corner. From real-time tracking apps to mobile destination intelligence to emergency communications.

TMCs provide the digital ammunition to locate and communicate with impacted travellers anywhere.

Step 5: Prep your people

They can’t be prepared if they're not properly looped in. Educate employees on your duty-of-care programme through training, pre-trip briefings, and resources that let them make smart safety decisions on the road like rebooking flights if things get unstable.

In conclusion, Smith said that while the world remains unpredictable, businesses can take decisive action to empower and protect their globe-trotting teams.

“By embracing flexibility, prioritising traveller input, and leveraging the expertise of a TMC, organisations can confidently navigate the challenges of modern business travel," said Smith.