Crafting Effective Destination Guides

How to develop destination guides that empower your travellers to better manage risk and reduce the likelihood of traveller emergencies.

First published by Grant Rayner on 01 May 2023

5 min read

Travel Security

This essay was originally published in Dangerous Travels on 01 May 2023 and was updated on 19 Jan 2024

In the previous article, I explored end-to-end journey management. In this article, I’ll focus on an important aspect of journey management integration: destination guides.

Destination guides provide travellers with essential information to enable safe travel to and from a specific location. It’s a simple idea. However, not all organisations do this well, if at all. Even when organisations do implement destination guides, they often do so in a cursory manner. The guides lack helpful detail and actionable information. Consequently, travellers are more likely to consider them as dull and unhelpful, and ultimately disregard them.

However, when done right, destination guides can be one of the most powerful tools organisations have to mitigate risks for travellers. In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits of destination guides and provide recommendations for how you can implement effective destination guides for your own organisation.

Benefits of destination guides

Well-crafted destination guides offer a range of advantages for your organisation and your travellers.

Integrating journey management

Destination guides provide detailed instructions for travellers regarding how to get to a particular location and how to get around once there. As such, they serve as a deliverable of the journey management process. All the effort you’ve put into selecting safe airlines, evaluating hotel security, and determining suitable transportation options will culminate in concise recommendations within destination guides.

Operationalising risk mitigation

While eliminating all risks is impossible, mitigating known and understood risks is an achievable objective. A key benefit of destination guides is the fact that they operationalise risk mitigation. For example, if an area has high crime rates, the guide can advise travellers to avoid that area. More importantly, the guide can provide a list of recommended hotels that are away from that area. If tap water in hotels is known to be unsafe, the guide can remind travellers to only drink bottled water. Accessible and practical recommendations can help to significantly reduce risk.

Empowering the traveller

Effective destination guides empower travellers with the information they need to manage their own risk exposure and make effective decisions while travelling. Feeling more in control of risk variables boosts confidence and reduces anxiety, especially when travelling to higher-risk locations.

Empowering travellers has practical benefits and recognises the fact that organisations have limited control over risk once the traveller is on the ground. By making risk-related information available to travellers in destination guides, the organisation is making the traveller a partner in the process of travel risk mitigation. This is a better approach than leaving the traveller to work things out for themselves once on the ground.

Prioritisation on risk avoidance

Many large organisations subscribe to vendor services. In doing so, some organisations believe that they have established a necessary level of coverage should there be a traveller emergency. That’s not always the case. Responding to traveller emergencies can not only be expensive, but also highly disruptive to routine operations.

A significant benefit of effective destination guides is their focus on prevention. By explaining risks to travellers, and by providing sound journey management recommendations, the traveller will be better able to avoid known risks. Empowering travellers to identify and avoid risks will always be a better strategy that taking a more reactive approach.

Building Effective Destination Guides

For destination guides to be useful, they must be carefully constructed. As a start point, they must be structured logically, guiding travellers through the process of understanding the risks, arranging travel, and managing their safety and security once on the ground.

In addition, destination guides must be accessible to travellers on different devices. The guides should be easily accessible by travellers during their trip.

Let’s take a look at the type of information that could be included in a destination guide.

Consider the following outline:

  • Risks
    • Security
    • Medical
    • Environmental
    • Areas to avoid
    • Key dates
  • Preparation and planning
    • Details of any risk-based approval processes
    • Visa application process and links
    • Vaccinations
    • Restrictions
    • Communications requirements (e.g., need for satellite phones)
  • Getting there
    • Approved airlines
    • Recommended transit airports
    • Airport arrival protocols
    • Meet and greet arrangements
  • Accommodation
    • Approved hotels
    • Getting from the hotel to the office
  • Local transportation
    • Recommended transport
    • Recommendations regarding buses and trains
    • Restrictions on certain types of transport (e.g., motorcycles)
  • Specific protocols
    • Check-in procedures
    • Loss of contact plans
  • Local office information
    • Address
    • Access instructions
  • Emergency contacts
    • Police and ambulance
    • Recommended hospitals and clinics
    • Relevant diplomatic missions
  • Emergency response - procedures for vehicle accidents, illness, emergency contacts, company insurance information

Each section in your destination guide should contain essential information, presented in an informative and useful manner. Here are a few examples:

  • Risks. Cover the key risks, but avoid going into significant detail. Focus on specific and recent examples of risk events so travellers can evaluate the risks in context.
  • Hotels. Include the name, address, and contact number for each approved hotel. Make sure to provide the address in the local language as well, so travellers can easily communicate the address to taxi drivers. Mention the distance and estimated travel time between the hotel and your office. You could also embed a Google Maps link with driving or walking directions. For hotels in higher-risk locations, include information about any vulnerable areas of the hotel that should be avoided.
  • Meet and greet services. Specify a meeting point in the arrivals area and add a photo of the location. Explain the verification process, specifically how travellers can confirm they are meeting the right person. Be sure to include the service provider’s name and a 24-hour contact number, in case the designated person doesn’t show up at the meeting point.
  • Local transport. Provide details of recommended transport options and be clear on which transport options should be avoided. If certain taxi companies should be avoided, list them by name and provide a description or photo of their vehicles. Be as specific as possible. For example, don’t simply advise against using ‘unlicensed taxis.’ Most travellers won’t be able to identify an unlicensed taxi. Instead, explain the risks associated with unlicensed taxis and offer descriptions and photos to help travellers identify them. In addition, explain which taxis or transport options they should be using.

By providing clear and actionable advice, you will not only help travellers navigate potential risks but also demonstrate that your organisation is serious about ensuring their safety when travelling on business.

Creating content

To ensure that the information in your destination guides is relevant to your travellers, you’ll need to carefully tailor the content to your organisation’s travel profiles. Too much information can be overwhelming for travellers, and too little may suggest a cursory approach.

As a rule of thumb, the more complex the risks, the more detail you’ll need to include in the respective destination guide.

Good sources of information include government travel advisories, OSAC country risk reports, and information provided by your existing security vendors. However, avoid copying and pasting material from these sources. Instead, understand the information that travellers need to know to keep themselves safe and then deliver that information in a format that’s easy to understand and implement.

Maintaining destination guides

Once developed, destination guides must be maintained to ensure the information they contain continues to be relevant for travellers. As a guide, the content of the guides should be reviewed once a year. The good news is that any updates will typically be incremental and minor.

An effective approach to maintaining destination guides is to seek input from your travellers. After each trip, encourage your travellers to propose updates or changes to the guides. By taking the approach, you’re not only benefiting from first-hand information but you’re also engaging travellers in the process. You’ll find most will be receptive. The other benefit of this approach is that you’re sharing the burden of making sure the guides are up to date. In effect, the process becomes a team effort with the end-user being an active participant.

Destination guides should be developed to cover known destinations for your organisation’s travellers. You will be able to determine this detail through analysis of recent travel patterns. However, it’s likely that you’ll face a situation where you have a traveller going to a new location. In such a scenario, you can conduct journey management planning for that trip. If it turns out that more travellers are likely to be going to the same location in the future, you can build on that journey management plan to create a new destination guide.

Lastly, there’s no harm in encouraging travellers to use destination guides for personal travel. Again, the destination guides help to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to its travellers.

Wrap up

By following the approaches outlined above, you’ll help to empower your travellers to mitigate risk during their travel. In doing so, you’ll also instil confidence in your travellers, helping to reduce anxiety.

Developing effective destination guides takes time, but it’s a worthwhile investment. The best approach to developing destination guides is to focus on frequency of travel and risk. Higher-risk destinations that see a lot of travellers should be a priority. Once built, maintaining the destination guides is an iterative process. There’s value in seeking feedback from your travellers to continually improve the guides and to make them as useful as possible.

Thanks for reading.

In the next article, I’m going to start focusing on communications and securing information while travelling.

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