Recent air disasters and terrorist attacks are putting travel and event managers on high alert.
The world of corporate travel was significantly tightened following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. to ensure the safety of travelling employees. Recent airline disasters and new terror attacks are again seeing a significant focus on the sector.
Travel management companies are reportedly ensuring that those travelling for business or to attend meetings are doing so with all the necessary tools possible to ensure that they remain safe.
The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website (www.smarttraveller.gov.au) should be the first port of call for anybody considering or planning an international meeting or business trip.
Managing director of World Corporate Travel, Gary Bender, says large corporations had travel policies in place well before 9/11 on the number of employees allowed to travel together on scheduled aircraft.
“We ran programs 20 years ago where we had to split groups travelling to Europe and Asia to no more than 100 people per flight,” he said.
He agrees that following 9/11 there was an additional impact on corporations and their travel management strategies.
What he does recognise is that the travel agent who many predicted would die out due to travellers using the internet or booking direct with airlines is now stronger than ever.
“We believe this is because we are there to assist on the whole journey. A licenced ATAS accredited agent like WCT will get you out if there is a problem.
“Large corporations we deal with have their security policies and have their own list of banned destinations based on government warnings and their own intelligence.”
Danielle Puceta, American Express Meetings & Events APAC director, says in many countries, including Australia, duty of care is part of occupational health and safety laws, and as such it is considered in the best interest of companies— from financial, legal, and ethical perspectives—to provide travel risk management policies and services as part of their safety and security services in travel management.
“With unexpected situations happening anytime, anywhere, travel managers, company security teams and human resource departments must have the right tools at their disposal to be able to successfully connect with their travellers and ensure their safety,” she says.
“To support this need, American Express Global Business Travel offers a traveller tracking and disruption management tool called AX CONNECT. This solution enables companies to locate travellers impacted by a disruption, communicate with them, and prioritise aid.
Airline and destination selection
Just as most corporations have a list of preferred accommodation providers, many give employees a list of preferred airlines. And despite much of their focus being on the bottom line, safety over price is very often the top priority.
Ms Puceta says that from a meetings perspective in particular, American Express recommend planners remain informed about security updates in the countries in which they are holding events.
“In countries where unrest or other political issues may be a factor, ensure there is a strong ‘force majeure’ clause in your contract so you can cancel the meeting without penalty, should a security issue arise.
“In addition, be sure to ask the venue about their policies and procedures for medical situations, and ideally meet with hotel security during a site inspection prior to the event. If that isn’t possible, talk to hotel security to ask about contingency plans for situations such as natural disasters, medical issues, political unrest and strikes.”
Carlson Wagonlit Travel Australia and New Zealand MD, Lisa Akeroyd, says from their experience companies have for some time included within their travel policy restrictions on the number of employees travelling together in the one aircraft and/or not travelling to banned destinations.
“I see increasingly sophisticated forms of traveller tracking becoming the norm for businesses in the future as companies place greater importance on knowing where travellers are at all times.”