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Of all the discrete functions that encompass managing business travel, practices around risk mitigation may be one of the most widely varied in terms of best practices.  While it only takes a quick Google search to understand the potential corporate liability that can be at least partially mitigated by cost effective duty of care practices, I have found that companies tend to fall into one of a few buckets.  Many companies take the position that simply posting a travel policy with risk guidelines checks the risk management “box” and as a result sufficiently insulates from potential duty of care complaints.  Others utilize traveler tracking and basic risk reporting from third party technology companies who either specialize in corporate travel management (TMC’s) or duty of care providers who can link directly to booked reservations to help track travelers in the event of an emergency.  Some companies take duty of care much more seriously, engaging in booking best practices to include approval processes, and proactive trip precautions and support to meet both legal and fiduciary goals.

Key Corporate Travel Takeaways for 2024

Access to Travel Content

The single biggest change in corporate travel for 2024 centers around access to travel content.  New Distribution Capability (NDC), continuous pricing strategies, and further content fragmentation will make transferring applicable travel data to risk providers more challenging than ever.  It is important to keep in mind that the success of risk programs is 100% contingent on the integrity of the data that is available when an event occurs which requires emergency support.  If a traveler books outside of an approved channel or any channel that is not somehow attached to a risk program that ensure real time access to travel data, duty of care is lost.  In addition to increased content fragmentation in the corporate travel industry, the pandemic forced industry mergers and re-flagging of hotels.  At KesselRun, we have seen too many examples to count of incorrect data making its way from the GDS or TMC into risk tools – incorrectly keyed Sabre codes, wrong street addresses, incorrect city reference, and yes even wrong countries listed as the traveler’s destination.  A serious duty of care program should go beyond checking a box.  The data that goes into a program should also include an audit function to determine the data integrity of the reporting that is coming out.

Communication to Corporate Travelers

The other change I expect to see in 2024 is a growing trend for companies to communicate to its travelers to be “situationally aware” of their surroundings when traveling on company business.  As travel restrictions continue to ease post-pandemic and the travel industry is experiencing significant growth, global unrest will play a role in how companies approach engaging suppliers and how travelers go about their business. Between global conflicts and the potential for violent protests, using a commonsense approach when traveling just about anywhere in the world will be more top of mind in 2024 than in the past decade.  At KesselRun, many of our clients are telling their employees to avoid wearing identifiable clothing that either reveals who they are or nationality.

Preferred Pricing and Travel Supplier Negotiation

Many of our clients are asking their preferred hotel partners tougher questions dealing not only with top-of-mind issues like sustainability but safety protocols.  A growing trend among organizations to allow shared economy sources like Airbnb also pose a unique risk to be considered and companies like Uber that enable “share your ride” reporting to colleagues or loved ones all play into how duty of care fits into a Travel Manager’s schedule of responsibilities.

Accurate data and a strong communications plan are key for a successful 2024.  However risk management works in your company – whether you rely on a strong internal department, outsourced risk management, or have another department such as Travel juggling the responsibility, these are the two main areas that can help immediately improve your program.  Decide where your organization will direct travelers’ questions and who stands ready to help with answers.

Top Questions to Consider for Risk Management in Corporate Travel

Here are some of the most common questions we hear from our clients about risk management and corporate travel.

Why is travel risk management a critical part of our business?

Organizations have a legal and fiduciary duty to their employees who travel for business.  Developing a strategy and communication plan, establishing a cross-functional team and ensuring your company has the tools and resources in place to support your travelers remains the cornerstone of a strong risk program foundation.

How can we assess our current travel risk strategy?  Where do we start if we don’t have a travel risk strategy?

There are many third party vendors that can help audit or establish your current policies and strategies.  These vendors may offer their own programs or act as unbiased resources to develop a program, source the right vendors and implement programs that best fit your culture and needs.  KesselRun would be happy to assist.

What is involved in a travel risk assessment?

Generally speaking, KesselRun’s risk assessment involves a deep dive into travel policy, compliance, stakeholder interviews, established strategy, technologies and procedures that an organization has in place.  At the conclusion of the analysis, KesselRun will offer a summary of strengths, weaknesses and other areas of consideration.  We offer recommendations and potential key performance indicators for tracking and program enhancements.

What is one of the most important aspects of travel risk management?

Travel risk management spans so many departments in an organization.  While one area may “own” the program, it’s critical to break down silos and understand positions, objectives and goals of all relevant parties – Legal, Corporate Security, HR, Procurement and Travel.  Cross-functional communication as a team is so important to success.  Extending the communication directly to travelers and employees across the organization only enhances the program even more.

What is the difference between crisis management and travel risk management?

These items are very inter-related.  Crisis management may focus on a specific incident that occurs in the course of business – a terror-related issue in a major city where you have 5 travelers that requires immediate response and resolution.  How you approach addressing and resolving that single incident is part of your travel risk playbook.  By having a travel risk management strategy and program in place, you’re not scrambling to address an incident in an already stressful moment.   

What kinds of tools and technologies are available for travel risk programs?

There are a variety of tools available to support travel risk management programs and they are constantly evolving, which is why KesselRun recommends reviewing your travel risk programs at least annually.  They range from “where are my travelers” reporting to “dots on a map” itinerary tracking to 2-way communication, GPS tracking and mobile app “check in” systems.  Travel risk vendors offer everything from on-the-ground intelligence and medical consultation to personnel extractions.

What is the difference between compliance and travel risk management?

Compliance to travel policy and program procedures is important, but compliance does not equal a risk management program.  Rather, it helps to save an organization money, support preferred vendors and encourage the behaviors or patterns a company wishes its employees to follow.  No travel program is 100% compliant and having an expectation that it is or should be, simply sets an organization up to fail.  Strong risk management programs support both compliant and non-compliant bookings.

What are the biggest gaps in most travel risk programs?

Even in the most mature travel risk programs, we generally see two major opportunities: non-compliant/off channel bookings and same day vendor direct changes.  There are some new technologies in the industry to help address these gaps – CapTrav, Traxo and TripLink serve to capture and parse all off-channel reservations to support your travel risk programs.

For 2024 it will be important for organizations and travel programs to develop, execute and refine their travel risk management strategies. KesselRun is here to help.

Reach out to us to schedule a formal risk assessment or speak to us for a consultation.