Authored by: John Linden, IRMSA Risk Intelligence Committee Member
At any given moment, there are about 1.2 million people on board 9 700 aircrafts travelling to destinations worldwide, for business or leisure.
Part of the ‘global economy phenomenon’ is the reality that international business travel is unavoidable, particularly as businesses establish operations in foreign markets. This is however good for us.
It means greater opportunities, long-term market growth, access to new talent and diversification. The World Economic Forum refers to this as flexible work and regards it as, “one of the biggest drivers of transformation.”
To maintain a competitive advantage and to foster foreign investment opportunities, we need to compete at this level.
The life of the business jetsetter is interesting and rewarding, but it is also physically and psychologically demanding.
The landscape has changed over the last decade and the modern traveler faces unique challenges as acknowledged in the opening remark of the executive summary for the Global Risk Report 2019 (14th Edition):
“Is the world sleepwalking into a crisis? Risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them is lacking.”
What are travel risks?
To be frank, no matter where our business Travelers direct their gaze, they will face risk.
The global economy, unpredictable schedule changes, exposure to infectious diseases, adverse weather patterns, new technologies, country-specific compliance regulations, the global crack-down on tax evasion, the ever-changing security landscape, political unrest and communication across different language barriers.
These trials test them emotionally, psychologically and behaviorally.
Business Travelers become targets by the very nature of their being in a foreign land in possession of valuables, and often with little experience of the customs and security landscape of their temporary host country.
We need to protect against our business Travelers being injured, or even becoming the victim of a kidnapping for ransom or worse.
What causes these risks?
Corporate ethos tends to focus more on business and less on the human aspect. As a result, unintentionally, companies sometimes neglect their Duty of Care by not embracing an organised programme to brief and train employees prior to international travel.
Furthermore, formal policies and guidelines, particularly as relates to restricted travel during security alerts, may not be in place to regulate trips.
If we are honest, business Travelers rarely take the initiative to familiarise themselves with prospective travel destinations, the security situation, customs and cultures. This leads to unnecessary stress and even to avoidable incidents.
Business Travelers who frequently travel to particular destinations, also tend to become complacent and resist security updates believing that they are familiar with any potential threat.
Another issue is lack of reporting of incidents. Travelers involved in incidents may experience embarrassment or may fear disciplinary action due to negligence.
How to respond to travel risks?
Businesses with global operations should invest in a travel management programme administered by a travel security specialist. This portfolio would be responsible to implement policies and practices governing travel security and ensure that the business takes accountability and acknowledges its Duty of Care.
The onus is however not exclusively on the business. Travelers should also empower themselves through knowledge and awareness as, ultimately, being responsible for your personal and professional safety can only count in your favor.
Things to consider:
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