risk management in corporate travel

Top 8 Risk Management Questions for the Corporate Travel Manager

Risk always accompanies travel, and risk management has always been important to businesses. Knowing where your travelers are via a managed travel program and company insurance have long been risk management guidelines. But while traveler injury or illness on the road has always been a possibility company risk assessment should be preparing for, 2020 has brought serious and new questions to the forefront of corporate travelers’ minds. Among these questions, the first risk management question for companies should be this one: Where can your travelers turn for answers, at any time of day or night?

Consider a situation that is no longer rare nor hypothetical: an employee is asked to travel between states, one with stricter regulations than another, for an essential business purpose. Or, perhaps, a U.S. employee is asked to travel to Canada. Direct managers and travel managers may find themselves opening emails with a laundry list of questions: whether the employee needs to quarantine upon arrival or return, whether testing’s required and if the company will pay for it, whether documentation of their essentiality is needed, whether company insurance will cover everything should an employee take sick, or even be hospitalized, on the road.

Remember, too, for every traveler reaching out independently, more may be keeping questions to themselves or unaware of potential scenarios. Adequate communication is key; the wrong information being shared, or coming from the wrong individual, could open paths of legal liability. However risk management works in your company — whether you rely on a strong internal department, outsourced risk management, or have another department like travel juggling the responsibility: you can immediately improve the process by improving your communication lines. Decide now where your organization will direct travelers’ questions, make sure every traveler and manager knows where to turn, and ready an answer to as many of the following questions as possible:

Top Questions to Consider for Risk Management in 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.

COVID-related concerns and questions have uncovered a lot of gaps in many well run travel risk programs throughout 2020, but “normal” risks certainly haven’t gone away.  As we look towards a new year and a strong return to travel in 2021, it will be of the utmost importance for organizations 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 to have a conversation on where to start.  We hope you enjoy a safe and happy holiday season – and look forward to navigating this new travel risk world with you in the New Year!