The Basics of a Successful Travel Risk Management Program

Travel for both business and pleasure is steadily increasing, along with a return to more regular commutes as the hybrid model of work becomes the norm. Through all the changes, risk never took a break – in fact, it’s on the rise.

Up to 10 physical threats can occur every minute, according to the 2023 Global Risk Impact Report. Travel volumes are at 124 percent of pre-pandemic levels according to our Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, and approximately 64 percent of CEOs believe there will be a full return to the office in three years. Not surprisingly, almost three out of four U.S. companies (71 percent) expect a complete recovery in travel spending by the end of 2024.

The challenge is protecting employees wherever they are. For security and travel professionals, the weight of this responsibility lessened after 2020, when travel went down significantly. That's no longer the case. Remote and hybrid roles have created a dispersed workforce, while the return to in-person conferences and other business events has resulted in more domestic and international travel.

As business travel rises beyond pre-pandemic levels, the line of sight into risk blurs. That makes it a must for organizations to implement and continuously refine a comprehensive travel risk management (TRM) program. Security and travel professionals can build a solid foundation with best practices and expert tips to create a successful program that supports their organization at every step of the journey.

Understand the Scope of TRM Today

Travel risk management is at the intersection of the rise in risk and the rise in travel. It’s the process of analyzing and preparing for threats to the safety of your people during travel and in remote locations. To keep your people safe and informed, follow these best practices:

With a holistic platform capable of addressing all your security needs, you can inform and protect your travelers every step of the way – before, during and after their journey.

How to Build a Better Travel Risk Management Program

Build a better travel risk management program with OnSolve.

Identify Your Stakeholders

As organizations grow, the internal stakeholders who focus on travel and travel risk management will also evolve. In the early stages, many organizations see travel mostly as an expense to be managed. With greater maturity, travel risk management can be seen as a benefit and a value differentiator.

Here are some of the most common key stakeholders who own and support TRM within organizations:

    • Human Resources: In many organizations, the role of travel manager falls under HR.
    • Office Manager: In smaller organizations, the office manager is often responsible for travel.
    • Finance: Because travel is one of the largest categories of expense, sometimes travel and expense are merged under Finance.
    • Travel Manager: More common in larger organizations and often reporting to HR or Finance, the travel manager’s primary role is to manage travel costs while balancing savings, safety, satisfaction and sustainability.

It’s important to note that travel risk management is increasingly becoming a collaborative effort across departments. Responsibilities and accountability often overlap between multiple stakeholders, making clear communications a must.

Don’t Drown in Alphabet Soup

Travel risk management processes often involve a slew of terms and acronyms. Did you fulfill your DOC by issuing a PTA in case there’s a BTA? To help you get familiar, here’s a cheat sheet of some of the most common TRM acronyms:

    • BTA: Business Travel Accident – This is a type of insurance policy for travel risk. Make sure to determine whether or not your organization has one and what it does and does not cover.
    • DOC: Duty of Care – This is a term used to represent a company’s reasonable efforts to ensure the safety of their employees, including while they’re traveling.
    • GDS: Global Distribution System – This system is used by airlines, hotels, cars and trains to aggregate their bookings.
    • OBT: Online Booking Tool – This technology can be accessed in real time to make travel arrangements and is commonly called a booking engine.
    • PNR: Passenger Name Record – This is the specific format for airline information that comes from the GDS. It’s also known as a travel itinerary.
    • PTA: Pre-Travel Advisory – This notice gives a traveler information about risks related to their destination and/or their route, typically via email.
    • TMC: Travel Management Company – This is primarily a service-focused company that often serves in an advisory capacity to corporate customers.

With this list for reference, security and travel professionals can focus on the task at hand rather than trying to decipher the jargon.

Determine Your TRM Maturity Level

Once you understand the fundamentals of the inner workings of the travel industry, you can use that knowledge to build the right TRM program that supports where your organization is today and will allow you to grow and scale as needed. The travel risk management maturity level curve can help you identify where you are now and where you want to be in the future. There are five levels along this curve.

    • Level 0: New and/or focused on delivering services in a targeted location
    • Level 1: Starting to expand and looking to international boundaries for new markets or new supply chain opportunities
    • Level 2: Multiple facilities and locations across a single geographic region
    • Level 3: Actively building a global presence
    • Level 4: Larger and/or with an established global footprint and dependencies across multiple regions

You can learn more about these levels in this short video:

OnSolve Senior VP of Alliances & Channels Jason Scott explains the travel risk management maturity curve, including how to identify where your organization is today and where you want to be in the future.

Perform an Organizational Self-Assessment

You're already anticipating and mitigating risks. Now it’s time to incorporate travel under your risk mitigation umbrella. Instead of thinking about travel as an expense, reframe it as a value center. When TRM is done well, the benefits of travel are far-reaching, from building relationships to expanding your territory and improving employee safety.

Use these questions to focus your organization’s TRM efforts and decide next steps.

  1. Who owns travel in your organization? Is it one department or multiple?
  2. Do you have a travel solution or a program in place currently?
  3. Is travel risk a component of that program or is it primarily focused on expense management?
  4. Is travel data available to your organization? If so, how do you receive or manage that data?

The answers will help you understand where you are in the maturity curve. Then you can start to craft a plan to get you where you want to be. For a smoother journey to your highest destination, download our ebook: How to Build a Better Travel Risk Management Program.


OnSolve® proactively mitigates physical threats, allowing organizations to remain agile when a crisis strikes. Using trusted expertise and reliable AI-powered risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management technology, the OnSolve Platform allows organizations to detect, anticipate and mitigate physical threats that impact their people and operations.