Business travel disruptions can occur for many reasons, whether it’s headline-making events like protests, volcanoes or bombs, or a more personal issue such as an individual’s health emergency. Whatever the crisis, the reality is that most of the time it doesn’t occur during normal business hours. To provide a framework to help limit the traveling employee’s exposure to risk, more and more companies are developing Duty of Care policies and procedures.

Because of the growing uncertainty of global conditions, Duty of Care is a hot button issue for travel. In response, more travel management companies are developing risk management tools and security partnerships. To evaluate a TMCs offerings, corporate travel managers need to know what’s included, what isn’t, and what fits their organization’s needs.

Travel management companies are outside vendors to whom many companies turn to provide travel management support to their internal travel departments. When it comes to risk management, the two entities can work together to create a better-defined travel program that supports the company’s Duty of Care policy.

Duty of Care and Risk Management

The Data Advantage 
Typically when an urgent situation arises, the first question is, ‘Where are our employees?’ So a company that has efficient systems in place which can pinpoint the exact locations of employees in real-time is already ahead of the curve. TMCs can supply that specific data.

“Our emphasis is in providing accurate data to the risk management companies which in turn makes us an excellent partner,” says Kathy Bedell, senior vice president of BCD Travel in Atlanta. “A TMC’s value add is in the strategic partnership it has with its clients. This is a three-prong partnership between the TMC (which provides the data), the third party security company (which provides the security or medical piece) and the company itself,” she explains.

“In a crisis, it is so important to designate a key stakeholder within the organization for incoming information. We are a piece of that, along with the risk company. A TMC can gather all the data needed on employees via their itineraries. Traveler tracking doesn’t work if you don’t know where your travelers are,” Bedell cautions.

Traveler tracking can also function better when employees are educated, self-aware and take responsibility for communicating their whereabouts. A TMC can help enforce this concept, known as Duty of Loyalty. Travelers have a responsibility to inform their employers of their location, whether through hourly check-ins in a high-risk area, or other appropriate mobile apps which send the travelers' locations back into the system.

“If an employee doesn’t utilize a BCD platform and they book themselves on a non-BCD platform, they have the option to easily combine that information on our platform,” Bedell says. In this way, a TMC has a more comprehensive view of where travelers are at all times.

An Issue of Capacity 
Some TMCs understand that they can only provide so much, so far. According to HRG’s London-based director of commercial marketing Amanda Hanlin, “While we have our own traveler tracker and 24-hour travel assistance, we decided to find a partner to help us meet the wider client requirement surrounding Duty of Care. Our clients are looking for global coverage, local knowledge and support on the ground 24/7, together with a proven integrated communications and traveler tracking ability. It is important to recognize also that most incidents are medical-related and not security, and so to obtain a well-rounded experience that emphasized both security and physical/emotional well-being, we were drawn to partnering with International SOS who already provide services to many of our mutual clients,” Hanlin says.

“What companies look for in a risk partner will vary based on the level of sophistication of their internal risk departments,” according to Tammy Morgan, vice president, North America customer organization, Carlson Wagonlit Travel. “Key areas to look for include global reach, an integrative technology platform, and a partner that can provide risk assessment as well as a broad variety of assistance during an incident. There are many risk management partnerships in the market today that focus on these components. However, the most comprehensive are International SOS, iJET and Anvil.” In the end, a company must pick what’s right for them.

Mark Hollyhead, COO at Egencia in Bellevue WA, concurs. “When looking at a risk management partner, I always recommend travel managers consider their travel program’s priorities/goals. In doing so, it’s important to not only think about cost, but to prioritize the technology, tools and capabilities a TMC/risk management provider can offer to ensure the safety of their people across the globe.” As the fourth largest global TMC, Hollyhead says Egencia has many global risk management partnerships in place to continuously monitor for severe weather, natural disasters or political events that could impact travelers.

Cooperative Ventures 
TMCs can offer an incredible value add for a company’s risk management program – if it’s the right fit. “In terms of best practices, look for program compliance,” advises CWT’s Morgan. “A TMC can provide accurate and timely data to your risk management globally and give you the ability to quickly locate travelers through their reporting services. These tools can allow you to transfer data internally as well as message and connect with impacted travelers. Many organizations do not integrate with third party risk management companies, so they rely on their TMCs for support. For instance, CWT provides ongoing security alerts to keep clients up to date of any activity that could present an impact to their travelers, and offers an integrated reporting solution that delivers 24/7 access to track their travelers globally, alongside a mobile app.”

In terms of value add, a major benefit that global TMCs offer is integration, which can help reduce the number of standalone travel risk management services a company has to manage. Hollyhead points out Egencia is a single, full-service global ecosystem that is accessible by all clients and customer service agents.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time and have helped global companies build, test-and-learn and adjust their travel programs as their company evolves and priorities change,” he adds. “Here are some best practices I’d give any travel manager partnering with a TMC on their travel program:
• Select a TMC that offers 24/7 customer service support in countries and cities around the world.
• Consider TMCs that offer easy-to-use tools and services, so travel managers can account for their travelers’ safety, and address issues and risks immediately.
• Explore a variety of TMC options, but look for one that offers a cross platform, integrated experience, so travel managers can access information on desktop, or mobile app.”

Different Strokes
But not all companies need to align with the idea of creating strategic partnerships with TMCs and/or risk partners. “On the other hand, there are times when a large risk partner may not be needed,” says CWT’s Morgan. “The risk profile of where your travelers are going will drive the need for risk specialists. If most of your travel is domestic and you have a strong internal risk department, it may not make sense for a risk specialist.”

Hollyhead agrees that it’s a matter of right-sizing the solution. “When choosing between a TMC’s offerings or hiring a risk specialist, organizations should consider the volume of travelers and if they’re frequently traveling to higher risk markets. In those circumstances, they may need the highly specialized services that risk specialists offer. For many, a TMC’s risk management services and global partnerships provide the data and support needed to act quickly and communicate out the appropriate contingency action plan.”

Smaller companies may have some additional thought to put in before coming to a decision, however. “Even smaller companies need support such as traveler alerts, advising them of threats and critical information,” says HRG’s Hanlin. ”And what most miss out on is the security information on hotels. Is a hotel safe? is it blocked off from a main road? Has it been vetted? The answers to these questions are important for us to know so we can book travelers into hotels that satisfy their company policy on security; it’s a total value-add when a risk partner can supply this.”

Organizing TMCs have a core skill set that influences Duty of Care via their technology-driven data capabilities and integration with risk-based platforms. However, they are not first responders. “TMCs are complimentary to risk partners such as ISOS, but don’t replace them,” explains Tim Daniel, senior advisor for innovation and business strategy for ISOS in Philadelphia.

“Having TMCs as a risk partner is a natural progression of how things have developed,” explains Charlie LeBlanc, vice president, global risk and client management at Houston-based UnitedHealthcare Global. “When 9-11 hit, a huge gap was exposed. The exposure was traveler tracking. Executives were calling travel managers and demanding to know where their travelers were. Travel managers immediately turned to TMCs and they didn’t know what to do; they couldn’t handle a large request like that because they didn’t have the technology. This spurred the risk and TMC partnerships.”

Not only that, a company must still educate travelers on who to contact within their company and when, if they find themselves in a predicament. “While a TMC can assist, what does the traveler do if he’s coming down with a high fever? He won’t call the TMC. He would call a 24/7 call center which might re-route his call to a TMC or might re-route his call to a medical assistance provider or even an insurance company,” according to Daniel from ISOS.

At the end “TMCs aren’t unnecessary or superfluous,” says LeBlanc. “When a company works with a TMC, they check off the DOC checkbox. In other words, risk partners now have a market differentiator. However, going through a risk partner can be a single source solution because it is the one that tracks people down, whereas TMCs provide incredible data – and that’s their greatest purpose.”of the day, it’s important for the company to be clear about how it will meet Duty of Care. “In other words, before considering a TMC, the principles around Duty of Care should be weeded out,” advises ISOS’s Daniel. “Most of the time, Duty of Care falls on the shoulders of the travel department. However, in today’s age the organizing principles should center around a consolidated, team effort. The travel manager must work with other departments to assess the organizations’ needs first, and then approach suppliers,” Daniel explains.

“TMCs aren’t unnecessary or superfluous,” says LeBlanc. “When a company works with a TMC, they check off the DOC checkbox. In other words, risk partners now have a market differentiator. However, going through a risk partner can be a single source solution because it is the one that tracks people down, whereas TMCs provide incredible data – and that’s their greatest purpose.”