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I learned from the real world managing my tourism company and I learned sound theory researching and writing my thesis on political crises and tourism.
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01 January 2017

Managing corporate travel risks

Managing corporate travel risks
Managing risks for business travel is more difficult than that of leisure travel as the destinations are usually dictated by the purpose of travel. Selecting alternate destinations not being an option, only itineraries can be altered to lower risks, while destination risks must be mitigated within the constraints imposed by the purpose of the trip.

Since the tragic events of Paris and Brussels in particular, there are has been a sharp increase of blogs, promotional emails and social media messages about the risks of business travel. However, this is mostly self-serving hype from stakeholders in risk and travel management. While these issues do need to be considered responsibly, the risks for business travelers have not increased anymore than that of leisure travelers in recent years. It could actually be argued that it is the leisure travelers who are at greater risks today.

If we consider the major terrorist attacks in Europe in 2015 and 2016, none of them specifically targeted business travelers. It was mostly local people and tourists (Bataclan, Paris, November 2015) who were most exposed or travelers indiscriminately (Brussels airport, March 2016). In the case of the airport bombing, as it occurred in the general check-in area, there was most likely a far greater proportion of leisure travelers than business travelers, as business travelers typically spend less time in the check-in area and many can go directly to airline lounges for check-in. Similarly, a shopping center, mostly under the watch of security guards, is an easier target than a convention center where a purpose or a badge are needed to enter and is usually protected by police. Here again, the business traveler is less exposed than local and tourist shoppers.

Recognizing that business travel is inherently no more dangerous than leisure travel, possibly even less so, does not mean the risks should ignored. There is one important difference between an employee travelling for business and the same person travelling for their own leisure: businesses have a responsibility of care for their employees and guests that does not exist in personal travel. That difference in itself is the reason global corporations take great precautions and often contract with specialized service providers to insure the reasonable safety and security of the people under their responsibility.

Mitigating risks at destinations

Being that alternative destinations are rarely an option for business travel, mitigating risks and exposure at the desired destination is unavoidable. While high risk destinations are well covered with sound advice provided by both the travel industry and government issued travel advisories, advice for travel to reasonably safe destinations is typically limited to generic and rather obvious suggestions covering general safety. Clearly, a low risk location does not warrant the costs and complications of security measures required for that of a high risk location.

However, some simple measures can be implemented to enable crisis response and management of an unforeseen event that could potentially endanger the members of a travelling party. First and foremost is information and communication. Someone who speaks the local language, either on location or remotely, should be monitoring local news to learn of unforeseen events as soon as possible and convey that information and relevant advice directly to each member of the travelling party. As most business travelers carry a smartphone these days, It is quite easy and economical to establish a communication network within a travel group using popular chat apps. The nominal cost of this measure is easily justified by the benefits of avoiding or managing even mundane incidents, like local demonstrations disrupting traffic, taxi strike, weather warning, someone getting lost from the group, etc. Most global corporations contract with travel security firms such as International SOS to provide such services. Other companies may have informal arrangements, either in-house or through their travel provider to cover at least some aspects of travel risk management. The ability to communicate instantly and individually with every members of the travelling party in the event of a serious emergency is paramount to mitigate the risks they may be facing at that time.

While admittedly limited to provide advice only in the aftermath of violent events spanning a very short time as in the Brussels bombing in March 2016, the Nice truck attack in July 2016 or the Christmas market truck attack of Berlin in December 2016, such communication ability was most important during the Paris terrorist attack of November 2015 as immediate danger in several neighborhoods extended into several hours. While the local people might understand what is happening and know where to be safe, being a visitor not understanding the local language could lead to a dangerous situation without a trusted communication for guidance.

In certain regions of the world, it is a wise to avoid displaying signs or indication of origin, or possibly the corporate identity, of the travelers to lessen risks of aggressive behavior that could develop into spontaneous and random incidents toward the visitors. While this has been common advice for decades for travel to a few countries, recent political polarization in Europe and US now makes it applicable in regions that, in the past, would not have been any cause for concern.

About “Blood on the Beach”

Political acts of violence in tourist destinations, such as the attacks in Paris, Ankara and Sousse, have a disastrous and long-lasting effect on local people and businesses, to say nothing of the tourists themselves. In these days of instant communication, the effect is all the more dramatic and far reaching, as even reputedly safe destinations are under threat.
Based on a PhD research on managing the impact of political crises on tourism, this book offers a simplified and practical application of the management framework developed in the thesis. The book includes enlightening extracts from in-depth interviews with a wide range of tourism professionals and reveals a fascinating picture of the true impact of political crises and terrorism on the tourism industry and the tourists. Blood on the Beach will be of great value to all those involved in the tourism industry around the world.

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