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by Kevin Iwamoto | September 28, 2016

Kevin IwamotoI recently spoke at the 2016 GBTA Convention in Denver on duty of care for meetings and events. I was privileged to share the panel stage with reps from iJet, a company I worked with when I was a corporate buyer, and I respect them a lot for what they do to safeguard travelers and meeting attendees.

I'm concerned that not enough of us fully understand what duty of care means and what specifically applies to meeting and event leaders as part of their on-site planning responsibilities. During the panel session, we shared some best practices, which I, in turn am sharing with you.

1. Make sure your third-party risk-management partner (e.g., iJet, iSOS, travel-management company, venues, etc.) can provide services to all types of travelers (staff, volunteers and other non-employees) and sort by group for reporting needs and accurate tracking. I would also include pre-trip "know before you go" communications to travelers booked to visit a mid- to high-risk area.

2. Institute an emergency response plan for international travel, covering all contingencies, including military action, political unrest and natural disasters. It is our responsibility -- and smart business -- to safely bring home every employee and contractor when we ask them to go abroad to further the corporate mission. Don't forget to include your key suppliers in the design of your company's plan.

3. Have a good communication plan set up for your travelers. Keep it simple and clear, so should a trip go awry, they know who to call for what. Incorporate info into a mobile app and laptop-static document that doesn't require the Internet to access. If possible, use one main link to provide immediate access to protocols so there's no need for phone numbers and multiple other links.

4. Educate your travelers through policies, smart communications, web pages, special alerts, etc.

5. Ensure that travelers understand pertinent details, particularly if a trip is rescheduled or the airlines take over their flight reservations. Your traveler-tracking program is only as good as the integrity of the booked data. When not communicated to the travel or meetings manager, changes to itineraries can handicap the ability to be effective.

6. Be ready for the unexpected. International travel isn't business as usual. Researching what resources are available in the event of an emergency is important, as is advising travelers to review their insurance coverage and other services to ensure they are available. Pre-trip planning and advisory communications also are key.

7. Ensure you have the financial means and proper form of payment so you could purchase a large volume of tickets, hotel rooms, charter flights or other arrangements at a moment's notice in case of mass attendee evacuations.

8. Have a team approach. When it comes to risk management and duty of care, it's best to have all stakeholders involved -- including travel, security, HR, senior management and risk staff. You also should seek an integrated solution that encompasses all your travelers' needs while emphasizing that everyone, from senior management to employees, have duty-of-loyalty responsibilities for traveler safety and well being. Everyone should be equally made aware of status updates and emergency situations. Make sure that all staff contact
information is kept up-to-date with regularity.

Duty of care in today's world is not a "nice to have," it's a must-have.

Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto.