According to a report released by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AIG in October 2018, 83% of women have had concerns about their safety while on a business trip in the previous year, yet a different survey conducted by GBTA and WWStay reveals that only 18 percent of travel buyers say their companies have policies that specifically address female travelers.
As Melissa Beauchamp, vice president of business development at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), recently explained to Business Traveller, it can be a delicate issue for businesses. Women are not the only minority group organizations serve, yet female travelers do need to be alerted to the unique challenges they may encounter during their work journeys.
“To uphold duty of care requirements, businesses need to provide training resources and support for minority groups — whether that’s women [or] LGBTQ employees — especially if they’re traveling to high-risk destinations,” Beauchamp told Business Traveller. But instead of singling out one group, she suggests that companies focus on providing education and training for everyone across the board that includes information on the specific issues minority groups face.
With that in mind, here are some safety guidelines that are aimed toward female travelers but also apply to all traveling employees.
To prepare employees for the realities they may face in a foreign environment, many companies provide them with country-specific briefings on the destinations they are visiting. Such profiles may include information on the local laws, appropriate attire, meeting protocols as well as gender-specific etiquette pointers.
Travelers also may wish to do their own research on the safety concerns most pertinent to them. Many governments issue destination-specific advisories for citizens on their websites. For instance, the U.S. Department of State site has travel guidelines on every country as well as a page dedicated to female safety.
To have greater oversight of the places their employees are heading to, organizations may opt to set up a pre-trip approval system with a tool like Expert Auditor™ (EA) from American Express GBT. With EA, supervisors who receive a travel request to a place that is deemed risky either can halt the booking entirely or communicate with the traveler some stipulations before giving the trip the green light. For example, a traveler going to a high-risk destination may be required to book only with suppliers that have been vetted by the security team or receive additional safety training.
A checkup on suppliers
According to the GBTA and AIG report, some of the biggest safety concerns female business travelers have are in relation to the location and type of accommodation they’re staying in.
When developing a hotel program, procurement and travel managers should consider properties near the meeting location and ones with enhanced security measures, such as doors with double locks, 24-hour surveillance and elevators that require key entry to guest floors.
Companies with an established program may review their preferred hotels to make sure they are located in safe neighborhoods.
As revealed by the GBTA/AIG study, female travelers also have some concerns regarding the transportation options available to them once they land in their destination.
As a way to address these worries, we have launched Ground Transportation, a multichannel platform offering black cars, taxis and shuttles as well as ridesharing services. All of our drivers have been fully vetted and have undergone rigorous screening processes. What’s more, travelers have access to all booking and vehicle information beforehand and passengers can monitor their rides in real time.
Tools and support at their disposal
When travelers encounter disruptions on the road, they can depend on us for support.
Our Expert Care™ crisis management platform provides organizations the ability to identify and pinpoint travelers’ locations in real time, instantly send alerts and communicate via text, email or mobile notifications. Travelers also can communicate directly with their company and choose to share their geolocation coordinates during an emergency.
Travelers who have downloaded the Amex GBT Mobile app can enable alerts and duty of care disruption notices to be sent to them and connect with an American Express GBT travel counselor 24/7 using the Messenger or click-to-call functionalities.
Because the app features integrations that include an expandable map, travelers can view directions directly within the app to figure out where they are and how to get where they’re going. It’s like Waze or Google Maps but includes key details of their trip.
All traveling employees should undergo security training so they are equipped to deal with a crisis if one arises. A risk management provider, such as our partner WorldAware, can provide in-person training as well as online courses.
In general, travelers should be extra cautious when out in public. They should be alert to their surroundings, take well-trafficked pedestrian streets and avoid isolated areas at night. If a traveler finds themself in a situation that doesn’t feel right, they should not ignore their instincts and they should immediately seek refuge.
We also recommend that travelers carry a mobile phone, charged and operable at all times, and have emergency numbers stored in their device.