by Allen J. Sheinman | July 17, 2017
According to a new study released yesterday (July 16) by the GBTA Foundation, three in 10 (29 percent) travel managers say they do not know how long it would take to locate their affected employees in a crisis situation. The report by the foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association, also found that one-half (50 percent) of travel managers say that in the event of an emergency, they can locate all of their employees in the affected area within two hours or less. In addition, three in five (60 percent) travel managers rely on travelers to reach out if they need help and have not booked through proper channels.
 
The study, How to Close Risk Management Loopholes, was performed via an online survey of 148 U.S. travel managers from April 12-21, 2017. Conducted in partnership with Concur, it explores how traveler safety protocols are established and executed, including the extent to which technology is utilized and integrated into the greater travel program.
 
"Research reveals significant gaps in educating travelers about resources available to them and the existence of protocols should the unforeseen happen," said Kate Vasiloff, the GBTA Foundation's director of research. "Failing to establish and communicate safety measures leaves travelers and organizations vulnerable. As both security threats and technology evolve, even the most robust protocols that once served companies well may now have weaknesses requiring immediate attention and modification."
 
According to Concur's President Mike Eberhard, "With business travel and global uncertainties on the rise, companies today face more pressure than ever to ensure the safety of their travelers. If a crisis or incident occurs, it's critical that businesses be prepared to quickly locate employees and determine who may need assistance."
 
Regardless of which department formally oversees the duty-of-care program, travel managers still play a key role in supporting travelers should disaster strike, which is why the vast majority (85 percent) of travel programs include risk-management protocols. Over the past two years, prevalence of domestic-travel risk-management protocols have increased to rival those of international travel. Despite this progress, there continues to be room for improvement, as only three in five (62 percent) international travelers are given pre-travel information, and even fewer (53 percent) are given information on local providers for medical and security assistance services before leaving the country.
 
Once it has been determined travelers are in an area experiencing a security threat, every minute spent trying to get in touch could be putting them in greater risk. Live personal calls (58 percent) and automated emails to business addresses (52 percent) are  the most popular methods of communicating with travelers in a crisis.
 
To manage the complexity that comes with building and maintaining a robust duty-of-care program, two-thirds (65 percent) of organizations retain the services of third-party safety and security firms. At organizations using third-party safety and security companies, four out of five travel managers report travelers can be tracked anywhere (84 percent) at any time (81 percent).
 
Depending on the maturity of the program, travel managers might have access to many different data sources, most of which are automated. The full potential of automated data cannot be reached, however, unless the systems are integrated, and less than one-half (47 percent) of travel managers report their online booking tool and expense tools are integrated, while only one in five (21 percent) say their safety and security tools are integrated with their online booking tool and expense tools.
 
Consolidating data into a central system allows for faster retrieval of information when needed, yet less than one-third (29 percent) of travel managers currently have systems that automatically merge all data sources, while two in five (41 percent) maintain separate systems. Notably, one in six (17 percent) rely on employees to reach out for assistance when in need.
 
Only one-in-five (20 percent) travel managers report using technology to capture traveler data booked outside their travel program. One-third (31 percent) of travel managers monitor travelers once at the destination through GPS-data, like a mobile check-in, but this is traveler-dependent. Failure to collect traveler data - for whatever reason - does not absolve an organization of its duty-of-care obligations.

The report is available to GBTA members by clicking here and nonmembers can purchase it through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org. Click here to view a free preview of the research.