As companies prepare to restart their corporate travel programs, duty of care is at the forefront of all planning exercises. But as Timothy Manrow put it recently in his Converge blog post, “open for business does not automatically equate to safe for business” — so how can travel and risk management teams ensure the safety of their traveling employees in this rapidly evolving new environment?
It starts with data.
A truly comprehensive risk management solution requires definitive, timely, actionable detail on each and every travel segment of each and every business trip. It does no good to only capture the flight itinerary details; if you are missing the hotel portion of the trip, you have no way to evaluate the safety of that location, reach your employee in the event of an emergency, or conduct proper contact tracing if that hotel turns out to be impacted by Covid-19.
Most risk management teams rely on their counterparts within the corporate travel organization to provide them with the relevant itinerary data for employee business trips. Typically this data comes via feeds from the company’s travel management company (TMC) which send through all the flight, hotel, and car rental bookings made via the company’s mandated online booking tool (OBT) or corporate agency.
However, what many risk management professionals may not realize is that this TMC data is incomplete, missing any bookings that employees make outside of the OBT or TMC environment, including those bookings made:
- directly on airline, hotel, rail, or car rental websites or mobile apps
- via online travel agencies like Expedia, Bookings.com, Hotwire, etc.
- conference and meeting bookings made through a third party event booking tool
- at the front desk of the hotel or the ticketing counter at the airport or rail station
There are countless reasons for this data “leakage” resulting from off-channel bookings, even in travel programs with strong mandates and compliance rules. In fact, the industry average rate for these bookings is ~40% — meaning, if your risk management program is dependent solely on TMC data feeds, you are likely missing ~40% of employee business trips.
This means you have major blind spots in the provision of duty of care — missing the opportunity to alert travelers to risks at their destination or rapidly assist them in an emergency.
And in an environment where missing even one booking can have catastrophic repercussions for the employee, their colleagues, and their family, that risk is unacceptable, both financially and morally.
Conversely, firms that employ an omnichannel approach to their data strategy for travel risk management give their teams the best chance at avoiding catastrophe. Rather than try to force corporate travel bookings into a single channel (e.g., their corporate booking tool or agency), they recognize that bookings will occur across a range of channels, and they design their data strategy to accommodate them.
So where should risk management teams start to ensure they are truly data-ready for duty of care?
- Audit your company’s existing travel booking activity to determine where the gaps are occurring. Automated data aggregation tools can be easily deployed to detect off-channel travel bookings so you can identify the most common sites and apps employees use to book trips when they bypass company tools.
- Identify the additional data channels to put into place to capture these non-TMC bookings for a true omnichannel data strategy. Many of the same data aggregation tools noted above can help here as well. What definitely DOESN’T work: mandates. Most of you reading this have had program mandates all along, yet you’re still dealing with blind spots. Exceptions are the rule — so plan for them.
- Educate and communicate. Enlist your fellow stakeholders in an education campaign to explain to employees WHY timely and accurate itinerary information is critical, and communicate policies and protocols that ensure your employees are engaged as part of your data collection strategy.
The best data strategy is one that optimizes for risk management instead of incident management. Make this possible for your firm by encouraging an omnichannel approach to your travel program’s data strategy.
Join Matt Griffin at the 5th Annual Global Travel Risk Summit, sponsored by HospitalityLawyer.com and the BTN Group, July 29, 2020