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Managing your Company's Travel Risks

Take a proactive approach to keep business travellers safe and secure.

Reacting to health and security incidents while your business travellers are on the fly is just one duty of the corporate travel manager and human resources team. Whether it's responding to an outbreak of flu in a key market or choosing secure hotels, you can proactively manage the risks through a review of key corporate travel policies and procedures.

Don't trade security for savings

Your organization might be pressing you to save dollars on business travel, but corporate travel managers need to keep the value of safety on the table, urge security experts.

Policies that aim to cut costs by using ground transportation versus airlines, staying in less expensive hotels that may not be centrally located, or travelling extended hours to avoid hotel stays may raise the risks of being on the road.

"Many of these typical cost-reduction solutions can, if not properly assessed, put travellers in harm's way," says travel management consultant Sue Swenson, CTC, CCTE, vice-president of Calgary-based Swenson Safety Services Inc.

Keep local risks in mind

Even as worldwide flu outbreaks and natural disasters grab the headlines, your duty of care to travellers should include planned action for potential day-to-day perils.

"More companies are realizing that they may have inadvertently overlooked the more likely local or regional risks, such as road accidents or illness. I believe companies need to ask: 'If an employee was in a accident, fell ill or found themself in a serious situation in a local, regional or national environment, would they know what to do and who to call? Would the company know and be able to assist?'"

Work through possible scenarios to help identify the gaps and enable resolution in advance, says Swenson.

Prepare for the hot spots

On a global scale, corporate travel management companies and specialized risk management companies such as Advito, iJets, Control Risk and International SOS, help create an international security blanket and assist travellers in trouble.

"Depending on the level of sophistication of your business, the type of information travellers have, and where they're going, they could be targets for anything from theft of information to staged car accidents,"says Chris Mathers, a former R.C.M.P. investigator who provides crime and risk consulting services to organizations around the world, with a focus on danger zones in Africa and South America.

"I think the number one thing every company needs is a plan and a travel briefing for their employees before they go. Engage an organization to give an overview of the country or research it yourself, if you are capable." Local knowledge can help avoid missteps in politically sensitive locales. "You might not want your travellers to show up on the anniversary of the revolution or the day they kicked a dictator out of the country, when things may heat up," suggests Mathers.

"These are the kind of things you have to think about all the time,' he says.

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SAFETY TIP: CARD THEM! Consider a simple travel risk management tool that fits in your pocket: a company card listing emergency response numbers such as security and HR contacts, insurance policy numbers and travel assistance providers. "This card should be wallet-sized, so it doesn't get lost in the paperwork, and distributed to family members too," says Sue Swenson, vice-president of Calgary-based Swenson Safety Services Inc. "It's a very simple example of what can help assist travellers."

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