Mitigating travel risk should be approached proactively, not in reaction to a crisis, says Blue Cube's Bex Deadman
In my early 20s my boyfriend and I had an extraordinary travel adventure in Thailand, but towards the end of our stay, in a restaurant just off the tourist trail, we were suddenly confronted by an angry gun-toting local and his machete-wielding mate. Imagine how I explained that later over a dodgy internet café connection to my Mum back home in the UK.
Throughout my 20-plus years in travel, I’ve never lost sight of how, through no fault of your own and anywhere in the world, you can suddenly find yourself in a dangerous, life-threatening situation. So, I’m pioneering to make business travel safer, but also more rewarding and sustainable for travellers.
Historically, traveller safety only improves when change is forced on the industry and, typically, in the wake of a crisis. Think of extra security at airports and on planes post 9/11.
For the first time, ever, the Covid-triggered travel shutdown has given our industry the chance to be proactive – not reactive – in making business travel safer.
The critical question isn’t just about tracking your travellers and knowing where they are in a crisis, it’s how you prepare them for such incidents and what your organisation actually does as the next step to keep them safe.
Travelling by air is extremely safe, with an average of one fatality for every 287 million passengers carried by UK airlines (compared to a one in 17,000 chance of being killed in a road accident).
For the first time, ever, the Covid-triggered travel shutdown has given our industry the chance to be proactive
But what might not spring to mind is what can happen in hotels. For instance, a single London postcode with a high density of five-star hotels saw 4,113 incidents of crime in January 2019, including cybercrime – data hacked from business laptops – hidden among 1,115 (28%) reported cases under the ‘Other Theft’ category. Not all took place in hotels, but we can’t blindly assume that none affected business travellers.
Outside the box
Familiarity breeds contempt but market innovations challenge established travel modes too and often, by operating outside existing legislation or industry norms, they can represent even more risk.
Today, Airbnb has 5.6 million registered listings worldwide and in the UK alone Uber has 70,000 ride-hailing drivers, many working a few hours as a second job to top up earnings. By contrast, there are 69,600 licenced taxi drivers.
What is needed now is a common global framework to meet the growing demand from corporates and to ensure suppliers behave more responsibly and actively support traveller wellbeing and mental health.
Internationally-recognised standards around hotel risk already exist but increased risk for travellers relating to every aspect of their trip needs to be addressed – from door to door and back again – where every service provider in the travel supply chain must step up.
The ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management standard is the framework the global travel industry needs – a roadmap for change
Self-regulation and industry schemes are laudable, but independent accreditation spanning processes and behaviour across the entire traveller journey is what’s needed now for the global travel industry to take care of its customers every step of the way.
The ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management standard is the framework the global travel industry needs – a roadmap for change.
You don’t need to strive for accreditation – that’s not possible yet. What you can do now is identify how your existing programme and policy measure up to the standard, identify gaps and understand how to address those – or in some cases, decide whether it’s relevant and business critical to your organisation.
For the UK, we’ve already taken a great step and I’m directly involved in an initiative with BSI to progress ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management to the point where UK businesses will be in the first market able to gain accreditation – and post-pandemic this will help make us a Business Ready Britain!