Designing a Travel Safety and Security Programme Part 2

The second article of a series focused on designing a robust and effective Travel Safety and Security Programme.

First published by Grant Rayner on 06 Nov 2023

3 min read

Travel Security

This essay was originally published in Dangerous Travels on 06 Nov 2023 and was updated on 15 Feb 2024

In the previous article, I introduced the subject of Travel Safety and Security Programmes. I discussed the importance of having a robust Travel Risk Management Framework, along with effective travel approval and booking processes.

In this article, I’ll continue the discussion by focusing on additional pillars of an effective Travel Safety and Security Programme–destination guides and journey management. I’ll also touch on travel tracking.

Destination guides

Your organisation should have a destination guide for each country where you send travellers on business.

Destination guides should confirm country risk levels and current travel restrictions. They should also include any specific requirements for travel approval. From there, destination guides should cover different aspects of travel, including getting from the airport to the hotel and how to get around town. The company’s preferred hotels should be listed in the guide, along with approved ground transport options.

Destination guides are an excellent resource for travel planning. They should also be a key point of reference for managers when determining whether to send a team member to a particular location (it’s not the traveller’s job to make these decisions unless they also happen to be the decision maker).

The most important benefit of effective destination guides is that they empower travellers to manage risk while travelling. By extension, destination guides should also help to reduce traveller anxiety.

It’s key that your organisation uses a common template for destination guides, ensuring a consistent approach to headings and navigation.

Your organisation should have a documented procedure for creating, maintaining, and updating destination guides. There should also be a process of gathering feedback from travellers after each trip to determine whether the information in the destination guide was accurate and whether any updates need to be made.

I recommend not relying on country information provided by governments or vendors for destinations guides. Some information can be gathered from those sources, but it’s important that your destination guides are tailored to how your organisation approaches travel safety and security.

If you’re interested in learning more about destination guides, I’ve discussed them at length in an earlier article.

Journey Management

Journey management protocols should be baked into destination guides for known travel destinations. As such, there should be no need to conduct additional journey management planning for routine travel.

In situations where your travellers are travelling further afield, for example to a new higher-risk location where you don’t already have a destination guide, or to a location within a country that requires additional risk assessment and planning, you should create a journey management plan.

The key here is that journey management plans should only be required for ‘edge cases.’ All procedures for routine travel should be integrated into the destination guides.

There should be a documented procedure for when journey management plans are required and for how and when they should be updated.

Again, if you’re interested, I’ve discussed journey management at length in earlier articles.

Travel Tracking

The objective of effective travel tracking is to ensure that, if an incident occurs in a particular location, you can rapidly identify which employees are currently in the location and which may be impacted by the incident.

The better travel tracking systems are integrated with Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and capture travel information when bookings are made through the corporate travel agency.

Different travel tracking applications take different approaches and offer a variety of features and benefits. Some solutions, for example, rely on travellers to share their location data. Some applications also enable the organisation to push security alerts to travellers.

Where travel tracking systems often fall short is their ability to capture changes to travel itineraries. Travellers may, for example, miss a flight, change a flight, or change their hotel. If an incident occurs and the travel tracking system does not reflect the correct information, there could be several impacts. First, the tracking information could lead you to believe a traveller is safe and not impacted by the incident when in fact they have been impacted. Conversely, the tracking information could lead you to believe a traveller has been impacted but in fact they are safe. Neither of these options are ideal and could result in major issues for the organisation (and the traveller).

The dilemma here is that you simply won’t know whether a traveller is okay until you can contact the traveller and confirm their situation. As such, just checking the travel tracking system alone is insufficient to warrant standing down your response. You must contact each individual traveller to confirm whether they are okay and if they require support.

A good practice is to encourage travellers to proactively call in when there’s been a major incident to share their status and need for support. They could call in to a GSOC, for example. You can educate travellers to the importance of calling to report their situation during travel security awareness training.

Where your organisation adopts a travel tracking solution, ensure that access is provided to those people who need it. As a guide, individuals in the GSOC and corporate security managers should have access. Line managers should not have access to the travel tracking application.

If you belong to a smaller organisation, you may be able to conduct a basic level of travel tracking using spreadsheets. But it can get complicated as the number of travellers increases. You’ll need to determine who is responsible for updating these spreadsheets.

The most basic version of travel tracking is for the traveller to share their itinerary with their manager. If an incident occurs, the organisation should know to reach out to the respective manager for itinerary information. Of course, if the traveller changes their itinerary for any reason, they will need to update their manager. This is far from an ideal solution due to the amount of friction involved with gathering information on the status of travellers, but it’s better than doing nothing.

For high-risk destinations, it may be appropriate to track the traveller’s location at all times. Such tracking has obvious privacy implications. However, the need for privacy will need to be weighed against the need to rapidly identify potential issues and initiate a timely response. Such tracking systems typically incorporate a duress feature, allowing the traveller to send an alert if they are in trouble. If your organisation is sending travellers to locations where there’s a high risk of kidnap, then the deployment of such systems may be warranted, particularly if it’s difficult to mitigate risk.

In the next article, I’ll continue with the focus on Travel Safety and Security Programmes, detailing different aspects of travel logistics and how your organisation can ensure they mitigate risk in relation to air travel, accommodation and local transport.

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