Managing Business Travel Risk During Uncertain Times

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 Mar 31, 2020  Blueback Global

Managing Business Travel Risk During Uncertain Times

Business travel risk always exists and nearly all travelers face difficulties at some point. However, social unrest and protests are an increasingly disruptive force for business travelers. In 2019, protestors filled the streets of Chile, Catalonia, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Yemen and Sudan, just to name a few.

According to a 2019 survey conducted by International SOS, more than half of 1,346 business travel professionals polled reported they had to contend with higher levels of business travel risk due to civil unrest and security issues.

Even though these incidents aren’t always predictable, they can result in serious consequences if they’re not properly addressed. Luckily, companies operating in foreign regions can do many things to reduce risk and inconvenience.

Here’s what your company can do to reduce business travel risk, especially when traveling to areas of uncertainty.

Proactive Risk Management

Unexpected events can occur, but planning what to do in a crisis can minimize the impact on the traveler and the company.

Develop a top-down travel risk management plan which identifies potential risks, outlines procedures and communication chains, educates and trains travelers and describes how the company will support the individual in times of need.

Proactive Risk Management

Record any incidents in detail and revisit your travel risk management plan regularly. Involve key stakeholders, including travelers. Fine tune your plan based on lessons learned and consider alternatives if travel to areas is a continual issue. Travelers can often provide first-hand insights into ways to avoid problems in the future and may offer viable alternatives if travel isn’t an option.

Monitor Travel Area Carefully

Situational awareness is vital to traveler safety. Basic first steps should always include monitoring U.S. State Department travel advisories. These advisories provide an overview of events that have occurred in specific regions and recommended steps should a person travel to the area.

U.S. travel advisories include four levels:

  • Level 1: Blue – Exercise Normal Precautions
  • Level 2: Yellow – Exercise Increased Caution
  • Level 3: Orange – Reconsider Travel
  • Level 4: Red – Do Not Travel

As an example, Hong Kong currently has a Level 2 warning due to increased civil unrest. The State Department is not suggesting travelers should cancel their trip, but they should exercise increased caution.

Recommendations include monitoring local media and the consulate on social media for the latest news. Travelers should also check the OSAC website for the crime and safety report for the region and their flight status on the airport’s website.

They also suggest travelers should also keep a low profile, steer away from known problems areas and avoid taking photographs. Recent protests in Hong Kong have been in shopping malls or near businesses with strong links to mainland China.

U.S. travelers should also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. It’s a free program that registers a trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The Embassy or Consulate relays safety conditions in the destination country and provides a communication point in an emergency should the traveler need to contact their family and vice versa.

Leverage In-Country Resources

If your business operates in a foreign region, contact a local representative for on-the-ground reports before anyone travels. Individuals in the area can often provide the most current information. That’s extremely important since travel risk can change quickly and without notice. Additionally, these people may be able to arrange reliable private transportation or accommodation away from troubled areas, if need be.

It is important to remember government reports only provide an overview of a country and/or region. Some travelers suggest these advisories may be overly cautious or too general, making them unreliable. While erring on the side of caution is understandable since these agencies are responsible for citizen safety, it makes sense to confirm information through in-country assets.

Of course, a connected international partner can also provide you with additional information. They have their own in-country resources that can help your business accurately assess the situation for informed travel decisions.

Review Travel & Health Coverage

Travel insurance and health insurance policies vary greatly, but many companies will not pay a claim if an individual travels to a destination with an active travel advisory.

Trip cancellation insurance may cover expenses if the government upgrades the advisory to “Do Not Travel” before the travelers departed. Equally, the traveler may be entitled to some compensation for the non-refundable, unused portion of the trip if the government upgrades the travel advisory and the traveler chooses to return home.

However, the company and the traveler must understand the fine print of a trip cancellation and interruption policy and health insurance before travel occurs. If a company chooses to ignore travel advisories and insurance doesn’t cover the traveler, they are not demonstrating duty of care for employees. Clearly, the company and traveler should be prepared to modify the itinerary when necessary.

Review Travel & Health Coverage

Duty of care is a company’s moral and legal obligation to keep its employees safe. A good travel risk management plan is the action plan that fulfills that obligation, increases traveler confidence and improves a company’s reputation.

Should insurance provide coverage while travelling, ensure the traveler has a copy of the policy available to them, either via the cloud or on their cellphone.

Nail Down Communications

Excellent communication is vital to effective travel risk management. Events that increase risk can occur in any country at any time, even when they have a Level 1 rating and appear to be safe for business travel.

Pre-travel orientations are an excellent way to increase traveller safety. Identify the top preventable risks and risk reduction methods and ensure the traveler understands communication protocols. Travelers need an easily accessible touch point with 24/7 availability. If the company is unable to provide it, consider a third-party agency.


If your company needs a first-hand in-country report regarding the current state of a region, Blueback Global can help. We’re a global business with a large team of regional experts that can provide your business with current, reliable insights. Mitigate business travel risk through accurate, timely information. We’re well-positioned and highly-experienced. Contact us for a free consultation.

Contact Blueback Global Today!