Within the span of just 30 days, we had some of the strongest hurricanes in living history batter the Caribbean and southern United States, extreme flooding in India and Bangladesh, two earthquakes in Mexico that killed hundreds, fatal fires in California, the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the U.S. and scores of bombings across the globe that often weren’t covered by mainstream media.
While these kinds of events have spurred corporate executives and travel managers (TM) in recent years to review and bolster their travel risk management programs, what they are doing apparently is not enough in the eyes of business travelers.
As a recent duty of care study released by Concur indicates, only 42 percent of the 1,050 employees surveyed felt their company would be able to help them through a major event. That’s disconcerting news, especially when that same survey also revealed that 53 percent of travelers have been near a major incident while on a business trip. And of that group, 41 percent were not contacted by their company to check in on their status.
Obviously, more needs to be done to make travelers feel secure and that their company has their back if anything arises while they are on the road.
For those looking to beef up their duty of care program, one solution is to engage a third-party travel risk management company like our partner iJET International.
Through its global network and partnerships, iJet has people on the ground in every corner of the world and seamless protocols in place so that when something happens — whether it’s a natural disaster, terrorist attack or any other kind of travel disruption — it can respond and assist travelers very swiftly.
As John Rose, iJET’s chief operating officer, explains, the moment a crisis strikes, his team is working fast, setting up operations, reading intelligence reports to make a complete assessment and determining which of its clients’ travelers may be impacted. Unfortunately, too often he says iJET doesn’t know where its clients have travelers based because trip information was not properly captured and shared beforehand.
Usually, that results when travelers book outside the corporate online booking tool and no other special arrangements to share the trip itinerary were made. In that case, Rose says iJET simply has to wait to get that SOS call from the traveler or client. Obviously, this is not ideal during an urgent situation where every second counts and can cause delays in iJET’s response time.
Communicating with travelers
To aid with iJET’s efforts, it’s critical that companies establish two-way communication with their travelers.
Since you do not know which systems will be down and which ones will be working, Rose says that organizations need to cover all their bases by setting up communications by text, email and mobile. For companies with many travelers on the road, an automated system makes the most sense since you do not want to be wasting time making dozens of phones calls manually.
Expert Care from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is a tool that greatly can assist with this task. With proprietary data infrastructure that displays dynamically mapped itinerary information, the platform provides organizations the ability to identify and pinpoint their travelers’ locations in real time, instantly send alerts and communicate via text, email or mobile notification.
To support outreach efforts, Rose stresses that travel departments make sure they have accurate, up-to-date contact information for their travelers, especially for individuals who use a different phone overseas.
Similarly, he also suggests that travelers have stored in their mobile devices the contact numbers for their travel providers, such as American Express GBT and iJet, so they can call directly for assistance 24/7.
Even for companies who have set up and tested their systems beforehand, Rose says there may be times when two-way communication can’t be established, as was the case for those trapped in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island. It’s at this point when a company may lean on iJet to deploy ground resources and conduct a physical search for employees.
Once employees are located, iJET provides the client with meaningful, intelligence-driven recommendations so stakeholders can make a well-informed decision about which path to take.
Rose says especially if it’s an isolated incident such as a terrorist attack, the recommendation may be that the affected traveler should remain where they are. Even if it’s their impulse to want to leave immediately, he says that can be a “poor course of action since you’ll likely be caught up in a quagmire of roadblocks and inspections.”
If it’s decided that iJET indeed needs to evacuate an employee, it will then utilize its up-to-the-minute intelligence to determine the safest and quickest way to do so — whether it’s by air, land or sea.
Rose also strongly advises that companies provide preparedness training to their travelers and employees stationed in foreign countries.
While he recognizes it’s hard to stay calm during such chaos, he advises that people who find themselves caught up in a situation to pause and take a moment to appraise what’s going on since rushed decisions can land them in further trouble. Once they figure out their surroundings and get their bearings, they need to decide if they are safe where they are or need to flee to another area.
If a traveler finds themselves in a situation where all systems are down — which Rose says often happens during earthquakes as well — he recommends asking taxi drivers and hotel concierges, who know the lay of the land best, about how they can get word back home and either let folks there know they are A-OK or need help ASAP.
And when that kind of urgent call comes through, wouldn’t it be better to know you have American Express GBT and iJET by your side to help get your traveling employees back home safe and sound? We absolutely know it.
To learn more, check out this other Atlas article about implementing a travel risk management program.