GBTA Convention Kicked Off With Discussion on Travel Risk Management

GBTA Convention Kicked Off With Discussion on Travel Risk Management

CHICAGO – GBTA Convention - Aug. 5th, 2019- “Even in the U.S. there are numerous challenges,” said Bruce McIndoe, the president and founder of the international travel risk-management company WorldAware.

McIndoe was speaking at a workshop on travel security management for small and medium-size enterprises on Sunday at the opening day of the annual Global Business Travel Association convention and exhibition here. There was certainly real-time evidence to support that assertion: In El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, back-to-back mass shootings had just killed 29 and injured scores of others over the weekend.

Even in Chicago, where 100,000 people were attending the Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park, with resulting traffic and street-crowd congestion just a few miles away from the convention site, there were examples for considering the importance of situational awareness. Chicago police said that seven people were killed and 52 injured over the weekend in shootings, including a drive-by ambush on a block party. It was the worst weekend of the year for street shootings.

Many of us tend to think of travel security risk-management and response as something that applies in obviously dangerous situations, like the protest demonstrations blocking streets (and causing major flight delays) in Hong Kong over the same weekend, or the protests and mass arrests roiling Moscow. Obviously, security and safety concerns for travelers abroad are the major challenge, but corporate travel managers increasingly are thinking more holistically, and even domestically, about their duty-of-care responsibilities. Among them, for one example, is when a company has foreign employees or vendors visiting the U.S. from abroad.

All major risk-management companies use data-driven and on-the-ground intelligence to provide travelers and travel managers with reliable information and response mechanisms. Riskline, a Copenhagen-based security-management firm, announced here Sunday that it had expanded its database of street-level city safety maps to cover 150 cities worldwide, with a goal of reaching 200 global cities by the end of the year. Like other risk-management companies, Riskline uses open-source and human intelligence analysis to compile its data.

Traditionally, travel risk management was focused on the obvious security threats – riots, uprisings, wars, kidnappings, natural catastrophes. But over the last 20 years or so, duty-of-care awareness has expanded to cover myriad risks business travelers face, including weather and environment issues, health, and even things like transportation snarls and sudden street closings. Travel managers, said McIndoe, increasingly need to “be proactive when you have people on the road, and prepare to have support in place even if it’s 2 a.m. on a Sunday.”

In a global economy with business travelers expanding into far corners of the world, companies of all sizes are more aware of their duty-of-care matters. Business travelers themselves also are more aware that they have a measure of personal responsibility, including keeping managers at home apprised of their schedules and whereabouts.

The key areas for corporate travel risk-management security policies, McIndoe said, are training, security reviews, response and recovery plans, post-trip reviews – and an understanding that travelers are diverse in age, gender identity, background, culture and personality. “Everyone has certain risk profiles that can change the dynamics,” he said.

Many small and medium-size enterprises traditionally approached travel security in a “seat-of-the-pants” manner. That’s changing with adoption of comprehensive policies. “The next challenge is to identify who is to ‘own’ it” in management,” he said.

Another evolution has occurred over the past two decades as far more women are on the road for business. Consensus has grown that female business travelers can face extra issues, said Michelle Lee, the head of global travel at BNY Mellon.

“For the first decade-plus of my career -- and I’ve been in the business for over 20 years-- I was strongly against any differential in security planning for women,” she said. “My attitude was we all have responsibilities, including in planning for ourselves.” That has changed as women carefully evaluate their travel experiences. Put simply, “statistics show there are more risks, regardless of where you travel, for women than for men.”

At a panel discussion on Sunday on travel-safety policies specifically for women on the road, she mentioned a key statistic: Eighty percent of all travel-planning decisions are made by women. Womens’ experiences are crucial in policy-planning, she said.

“But are we making a big deal out of nothing?” the panel moderator, Tahnee Perry, travel media director at Northstar, asked rhetorically.

Definitely not, said Tobey Samuel, sales and development director at Data Visualization Intelligence. A frequent traveler, she cited corporate travel policies that specifically accommodate out-of-policy decisions by a woman who chooses to, say, avoid one hotel or even a category of accommodations like Airbnb’s.

Female travelers are especially good “noticers” on the road. A good policy, the panelists agreed is for travel managers “at the end of a trip” to sound out women on their experiences and evaluations, and compile the information.

In general, “You start with the assumption that all your travelers are intelligent. You do not have to be overly proscriptive,” Michelle Lee said. On the other hand, she added, “there is really nothing that comes before safety and security. Nothing. “

Experienced business travelers learn to at least anticipate the unexpected, whether mundane delays and hassles or, potentially, emergencies.

In Dayton over the weekend, for example, the mass shooting that killed nine occurred in the Oregon District, an upscale entertainment section of town popular with locals and visitors alike. Until then, few gave much thought to danger. “You don’t even get fights here,” a man who was in the nightclub next to where the shooting started told The Wahisngton Post. “Nothing ever happens in the Oregon District.”

Till it does.


About the Author: Joe Sharkey
Joe Sharkey’s work appears in major national and international publications. For 19 years, until 2015, he was a columnist for the New York Times — for 16 years doing the weekly “On the Road” column on business travel, and before that the weekly “Jersey” column for three years. He is currently a columnist with Business Jet Traveler magazine, and an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Arizona. A Vietnam veteran, he has written five books, four non-fiction and a novel. One of his nonfiction books, “Above Suspicion,” has been adapted as a major motion picture starring Emilia Clarke, Jack Huston, Thora Birch and Johnny Knoxville (and directed by Phillip Noyce), to be released soon. In January 2017, a new, revised edition of his book “Above Suspicion” was published in print and as an e-book by Open Road Media. Penguin Random House also released an audio book version in January. Open Road also published revised editions in e-book format of his true-crime books “Death Sentence” and “Deadly Greed.” In January 2018, the revised edition of “Death Sentence” was published in print by Open Road Media. In his newspaper career before the New York Times, he was an assistant national editor at the Wall Street Journal; the executive city editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union; and a reporter and columnist with the Philadelphia Inquirer. On Sept. 29, 2006, while on assignment, he was one of seven people on a business jet who survived a mid-air collision with a 737 at 37,000 feet over the Amazon in Brazil. All 154 on the commercial airliner died. His reports on the crash appeared on the front page of the New York Times and later in the Sunday Times of London Magazine. He and his wife Nancy (who is a professor of journalism at the University of Arizona) live in Tucson — where he is also working on a new novel about the exploits of an international travel writer who hates to travel. .