Designing a Travel Safety and Security Programme Part 3

The third article of a series focused on designing a robust and effective travel safety and security programme.

First published by Grant Rayner on 13 Nov 2023

5 min read

Travel Security

This essay was originally published in Dangerous Travels on 13 Nov 2023


This is the third article in a series focused on designing robust Travel Safety and Security Programmes. In this article, I’ll focus on the logistics aspects of business travel, including flights, accommodation, meet-and-greet services, and local transport.

From the outset, you should not leave it up to your travellers to select airlines or hotels. Similarly, you should not let your travellers fend for themselves when it comes to determining which local transport options are safe.

As with other aspects of travel safety and security, there are advantages in taking a risk-based approach to travel logistics. Lower-risk countries require less attention than higher-risk countries.

Let’s start by addressing the programme-level aspects of air travel.

Air Travel

Your organisation should have documented policies regarding the selection of airlines for corporate travel. These policies should enforce the use of safe airlines for international and domestic flights. Another approach is to maintain a list of non-approved airlines.

Once you’ve identified approved airlines, the key is to ensure that travellers cannot book travel on these airlines. To achieve this, you’ll need to integrate your list of approved airlines into your travel booking system.

The list of approved airlines to get to a particular location should be included in the respective destination guide. Importantly, the destination guide should be specific regarding the safety of domestic airlines. Domestic airlines are often less safe than their international counterparts, requiring additional attention. If certain domestic airlines are not approved, you can make that clear in the destination guide.

If travellers are likely to move to other locations within a country, you should specify in the respective destination guide whether they should travel by air or road. This decision can be challenging in developing countries, where domestic airlines may not meet international safety standards and where road conditions are poor.

I’ve discussed aviation security in more detail in earlier articles.

Accommodation

Travellers will spend a significant amount of time in their hotels while away. As such, where travellers stay can have a significant impact on their safety. Here’s three examples showing how poorly selected hotels can increase risk to travellers:

  • Hotels selected far from the local office or meeting locations, requiring long drives that expose travellers to avoidable risks on the road. Traffic jams can also result in increased anxiety for the traveller.
  • Hotels close to high-crime areas or red-light districts, exposing travellers to street crime, scams and prostitution.
  • Hotels in areas with a terrorism threat that are outside of secure sectors, placing the traveller in a vulnerable situation.

At a high level, your organisation’s policies on use of accommodation should be risk based. For lower-risk locations, it may not matter where travellers stay. However, as risk increases, you should be more definitive regarding accommodation options. For locations where there is a risk from terrorism, you should establish firm rules regarding where travellers can stay.

Your approach to conducting hotel safety and security assessments should also be risk based. The higher the risk, the more detailed the assessment process. Where there is a risk from terrorism, hotel assessments are essential.

Hotel security assessments should be conducted on the ground by an experienced professional using a valid hotel security assessment methodology. As risks, hotel safety and security postures can change over time, you’ll need to have an ongoing programme of safety and security assessments. As a guide, one assessment every two years is appropriate for higher-risk locations where there is a risk from terrorism.

For most destinations, it’s advisable to limit the number of hotels in each city. This approach has a number of benefits, including the fact that it will reduce the ongoing burden of assessing hotel safety and security. As a guide, you should select two or three hotels close to your office to minimise risks when moving between the hotel and the office. You should also select two hotels slightly further away from the office, in case there’s an incident in the immediate vicinity. Finally, it’s useful to identify one or two hotels close to the airport.

Don’t lock yourself into only using hotels. In some locations, it may be preferable to stay in boutique hotels or guest houses.

Establish clear policies regarding the use of apartments or services such as Airbnb. My view is that I would avoid Airbnb for corporate travel, because it introduces risks to privacy that can’t be effectively mitigated.

As with airlines, once you’ve identified secure hotels, you’ll need to integrate this list of hotels into your travel booking system to ensure travellers cannot book into other hotels. The list of approved hotels should also be included in the respective destination guide.

Where appropriate, include specific advice for each hotel in the destination guide. For example, in locations where there is a risk from terrorism, you might advise travellers to minimise their time in the lobby or in restaurants close to the drop off point or at vehicle and personnel inspection areas. It’s also useful to include driving, public transport or walking directions from the hotel to the local office.

Lastly, gather feedback from travellers after their trip, particularly in relation to their perception of safety while staying at the hotel. This aspect is particularly important for female travellers.

Meet-and-Greet Services

Meet-and-greet services help to ensure a smooth transition for travellers between the airport and their hotel. Your organisation’s approach to meet-and-greet services should be risk based. For lower-risk locations, provide instructions in the respective destination guide on how the traveller should move from the airport to their hotel. Include specific details, such as how to get to the train station, bus stop or taxi stand. Don’t make the traveller have to work this out for themselves. Always assume your travellers will arrive tired. They may even have had a few drinks on the plane. Many could also be first time travellers.

Where meet-and-greet services are necessary, either identify a suitable local transport provider or use the hotel’s airport transfer service. Where necessary based on prevailing risks, use security drivers, protective security details or armoured vehicles.

For higher-risk locations, establish more formal protocols. Establish a meeting point in the airport arrivals area (or airside, if that’s permitted). Document ‘handshake’ protocols, and protocols for a situation where the local contact isn’t there when the traveller arrives. Detail the transport arrangements and other protocols in the respective destination guide. It’s useful to include a map of the arrivals area indicating the meeting point. Photos are also useful for orientation.

When you conduct traveller training, reinforce the importance of following meet-and-greet protocols.

Finally, have a procedure in place for travellers to report any concerns with meet-and-greet services after their trip. You could, for example, conduct a survey after trips to higher-risk locations to gather feedback.

Ground Transport

Once on the ground, your travellers will need to move from their hotel to the office, meeting venues, and restaurants. Driving around town can expose travellers to a number of risks, including vehicle accidents and car jacking. Even breakdowns can expose travellers to risks, particularly if the breakdown occurs in a higher-risk part of town or in a more remote area.

In locations where there are security concerns, road safety concerns, or a combination of both, you should go through a formal process of vetting local transport providers.

Provide training for travellers so they’re reminded to wear seatbelts and ensure they know to tell their driver to either slow down or drive more carefully. I appreciate these points may appear obvious, but they really do need to be continually reinforce.

Include information on ground transport options in the destination guides. Provide granular information regarding which options are preferred and which should be avoided. If certain taxi companies should be avoided, provide the name of the company and a photo of their taxis so it’s clear to the traveller. Include local contact numbers so travellers able to change drivers if they believe their allocated driver is not driving safely.

Have policies in place for specific types of transport. You might, for example, have a strict policy against employees riding motorcycles when travelling on business. Include these details in destination guides and reinforce any restrictions during training.

Ensure these policies are tailored to each location. While it’s perfectly okay to take tuk-tuks for short trips around town in Phnom Penh, it’s not okay to take the equivalent (CNGs) in Dhaka due to the fact that the driver can lock you in the rear of the vehicle. If there was an accident, you would not be able to exit.

You might also place restrictions on how employees move between different locations at night. These restrictions may be implemented to mitigate security risks. They may also be essential to reduce the risk of catastrophic accidents.

Have a procedure in place for travellers to report concerns with vehicles and drivers. As with meet and greet services, you could conduct a survey after each trip. More importantly, however, ensure you have a mechanism for the traveller to change their vehicle and/or driver if they deem it necessary.

Hopefully you’ve noted the pattern here. The organisation should set risk-based policies for travel logistics. Approved airlines and hotels should be baked into the travel booking process, preventing travellers from selecting non-approved options. Details of approved options should be included in destination guides to ensure travellers know what to do. Specific procedures should be covered in training to build awareness.

Next week, I’ll continue with the theme of developing robust Travel Safety and Security Programmes by focusing on medical and communications planning, amongst other considerations.

Thanks for reading.


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