Managing Fears Regarding Terrorism and Travel

Statistically speaking, the chance of a terrorist attack impacting one of your travelers is slim. According to a CNN report, 350 U.S. citizens were killed overseas as a result of terrorism incidents from 2001 to 2013. To put that number in perspective, CNN then calculated, using statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that 406,496 people died from firearms on U.S. soil during that same time period.

But as a recent survey conducted by ACTE in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel unearths, it seems business travelers’ fears are intensifying and they are more concerned about their personal safety while on the road.

Psychologically, we tend to exaggerate the threat in our minds because acts of terrorism are rare and unknown. We also are more afraid of things that may harm us in a particularly gruesome way — even though, it’s far more likely that travelers will be impacted by an ordinary event, such as a heart attack or vehicle accident. However, using this kind of logic may not work on a person who’s overly anxious by what's going on in the world.

So what can a travel manager (TM) do to ease a traveler’s terrorist-related angst? Don’t try to assuage their fears with stats and facts. Instead, do it with an action plan.

Pre-trip preparation

First, ensure that your travelers are fully aware of the travel risk management (TRM) program your company has in place. (And if you need help building one, get started here.) Your plan should spell how the company will respond in the event of a terrorist attack or security incident and what travelers should do themselves if they get caught up in a situation. For more information, the U.S Department of State has a good list of actions to take during a crisis abroad.

Arm your travelers with knowledge about the destination where they’re heading.

Through iJET® International, a risk management company whose services are available to American Express GBT clients, travelers automatically can have alerts sent to them in advance of their trip, warning them of any risks associated with their destination.

If your company is not already a participant, enroll in EXPERT CARE from American Express GBT, which helps to locate and communicate with travelers impacted by a crisis situation.

Also encourage your travelers to register their trips with the U.S Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, so that the local U.S. embassy also has their information and can assist with search efforts in the event of a crisis.

Should they stay or should they go?

What if a terrorist attack occurs in a city where your traveler about to board a plane for? Do you still send them on their way?

Each company will have to make their own assessment on a case-by-case basis, but to help make the determination, see what the U.S. Department of State recommends on its travel alerts and warnings page.

If the event is serious enough, flights may be canceled or postponed anyhow.

For instance, when a man holding a gun at a female soldier in Orly airport a few months ago, dozens of flights to and from Paris’ second-busiest airport were canceled — as were flights after the Paris terrorist attack in 2015.

For those who would consider canceling a trip, there’s travel insurance that covers terrorist-related events — but be sure read the fine print. This type of insurance generally provides coverage for a trip cancelation where the “terrorist incident” (as defined by the policy) occurred at the customer’s location within 30 days of their arrival. In many cases, trips are not covered if there is a “known peril” or insurance is purchased after an attack has occurred.

Some airlines and hotels will waive itinerary change fees if it’s a serious event — as did happen with the Paris 2015 attack.

If there are flight disruptions, clients of American Express GBT enrolled in the Proactive Traveler Care program will get notifications instantly and support rescheduling their flight and hotel. Travelers who have the Amex GBT Mobile app downloaded also can use its click-to-call function for itinerary assistance.

Safety tips for when they are on the ground

While business travelers may have developed a certain amount of complacency from all the trips they’ve been on, it’s important they still stay vigilant about their safety. Particularly if they are heading to a city with a high risk, advise your travelers to avoid popular tourist attractions and venues that draw crowds, like sports stadiums, concert halls and outdoor markets. They also should identify potential safe areas, such as police stations, hotels and hospitals.

Remind your travelers to carry a mobile phone, charged and operable at all times, and encourage them to have emergency services numbers stored in their device.

And just so they know what to do in the unlikely event they are caught in an attack, teach them the “run, hide, fight” rule that the U.S. Department of State promotes on it site.

The reality is, a terrorist attack can happen anytime, anywhere — even on home turf — so it’s always good to be prepared.  

To learn more about American Express GBT’s travel risk management solutions that can aid travelers during a crisis situation, click here.