The Covid-19 pandemic paralyzed the travel industry. Social distancing rules and widespread avoidance of crowded indoor spaces halted business and leisure travel. Now, with widely available vaccines and lower Covid-19 cases, travel is slowly returning to its pre-pandemic levels, although travel risks and disruption are ever-present.
Extreme weather and flight cancellations also occur frequently. In addition, global, civil and political unrest is creating uncertainty in locations previously considered safe. Still, the world is eagerly reconnecting, offices are opening back up worldwide and corporate travel is picking up. Organizations remain vigilant about keeping employees safe, and some are turning to technology options, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and geo-location software, in order to mitigate these risks.
In this article, we’ll look at the current state of travel risk and how businesses can help traveling employees prepare for sudden changes due to physical threats with the help of technology and careful planning.
What is the state of travel risk?
In 2022, the CDC moved 22 countries into the highest-risk travel category for Covid-19. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State keeps a list of the 10 most dangerous countries to visit due to high levels of crime, terrorism and civil unrest.
Not only are risks growing country by country, but means of travel, particularly the airline industry, are struggling under the weight of increased travel, labor shortages, oil and gas price surges and route changes. Consumers are progressively experiencing more disruptions in their itineraries due to delayed or entirely canceled flights as a result.
How can technology help travelers detect and monitor risk?
Artificial intelligence can be used to gather and analyze public data sets to detect new regulations for travel, severe weather and an area’s overall safety. This information, coupled with a traveler’s itinerary, can give a view of risks in real time associated with weather advisories, civil unrest, changes to Covid-19 protocols or other human-made threats. Companies can leverage AI to quickly assess their employees’ safety when used for corporate travel.
Waiting for local news in your area could take 24 to 48 hours to receive, but AI allows for real-time updates and information, which is crucial when facing potential communication issues and language barriers abroad.
AI-powered analytics can proactively send threat notifications and other important information about the threat as it evolves. It facilitates communication with those impacted or who need to execute crisis management plans.
How can organizations keep travelers safe and informed?
Organizations looking into AI-based travel risk management technology may face barriers to adoption, such as finding the right data sources across their people, places and destinations; activating on insights; and training analysts. However, these can be overcome by proactively planning for risk, and ensuring teams are trained on how to mitigate threats to traveling employees, what markers to look out for and how to take action and communicate swiftly to the right teams.
Companies should consider traveling employees a unique class of employees with different requirements and standards for duty of care. A successful and strong travel risk management program should outline clear policies, provide consistent employee training, and count on efficient technology that enables swift communication.
As organizations incorporate this technology to fulfill their duty of care obligations, business leaders must prioritize speed, relevance and usability. Besides these factors, employers should consider these steps to keep employees safe while traveling.
- Require employees to use appropriate technology when traveling.
- Help employees set up and utilize geo-targeted notifications for potential threats or itinerary changes.
- Have a plan to track an employee if they are at a destination known to be dangerous.
- Schedule proactive pre-travel briefings that anticipate and prepare for a critical event.
As corporate travel continues to rebound, business leaders now have new factors to consider as part of their legal responsibility to maintain their employees’ health, safety and well-being, otherwise known as the duty of care.
Travel management technology can help ensure employee safety and helps companies plan for the worst-case scenario. If a risk develops or an issue arises when employees are abroad, it is also crucial that your organization’s risk management plan has protocols in place to support employees in terms of medical or evacuation assistance.
To learn more, download the ebook: Best Practices for Today’s Travel Risk Management.
Originally published in Forbes, June 2022