17 experts advise on what’s to come this year. Spoiler: Data factors big.
The Innovate Conference for the Advancement of Business Travel offered business travel executives the opportunity to articulate priorities and recommendations.
With or without a budget, small and midsize enterprises have
to keep their travelers safe while on the road. Broadridge Financial Solutions VP
of procurement and travel John Wohlleber and Informatica global travel manager Rick
Wakida spoke with BTN associate editor JoAnn DeLuna.
BTN: As SMEs, what do your travel risk management
programs look like?
Rick Wakida: It's a work in progress. I've done mostly
non-budget stuff that's easy to address in the travel policy that doesn't cost anything.
Our policy provides that all travel arrangements must be booked through an authorized
channel, either our single global TMC American Express Global Business Travel or
the online booking tool, which in most cases is Concur and fulfilled by the TMC.
Since all travel must be booked through those channels, we're able to have traveler
tracking. If they're booking outside of the system, they're booking outside of policy
and we have no visibility. Other policies are that all employees must wear seatbelts
if available whenever they're traveling in any form of transportation, whether rental
car, bus, etc. This ties back to our BTA, business travel accident policy, which
usually resides in human resources and which states that you must wear a seatbelt
to make a claim. We have a typical limit on the number of employees and executives
allowed on any conveyance. We also don't reimburse for cash withdraws from ATMs.
It's a safety issue because in certain countries people hang out at ATMs to watch
visitors withdraw cash and then mug them. On the program side, we adopt our TMC's
country risk rates and block the extreme risk countries so they cannot book those
on- or offline.
John Wohlleber: For us, it starts with a single agency,
Egencia, covering our three largest markets: U.S., Canada and U.K. By having a single
agency covering those three markets, we have eyes on their travel whenever there's
an incident. It's looking at booking data and saying, "Hey, these folks could
be impacted." Outside of that, travelers are using different agencies or booking
on their own. We have travel risk insurance through AIG. If associates are traveling
into a region that's not stable and outside of normal business travel, we will call
the head of our physical security department, as well as our risk management team,
to get an assessment, which comes back fairly quickly. Often, they don't recommend
travel to those areas. We'll go back and challenge the traveler's manager. If travelers
are potentially going into harm's way, we want to make sure there is some familiarity
with the market or adequate security like armored cars and armed guards for transportation.
BTN: John, do you require those traveling to areas
not covered by the TMC to forward their itineraries to Egencia so you can account
for them that way?
Wohlleber: We do not take in their travel information,
even on an ad hoc basis. For all intents and purposes, they're off the grid; we
don't have visibility. That's unfortunate because every employee should be as important
as the next, but based on scale, the head count drops off significantly outside
of the three regions I mentioned. In the unmanaged regions, we leverage the associate,
manager and HR leads to assist with the communication, and ultimately, they would
request assistance from [the] travel, risk management and/or physical security [departments],
depending on what the need is.
We will send out an email to travelers to say, 'You were on a list of travelers who may be in a region or may have been impacted. Please get back to us to let us know you're safe, if you were impacted and where you are.' When we do that, it's very fulfilling because the associates think less about Big Brother and more about, 'Someone is actually looking out for me.'"
Wakida: Our TMC is supposedly working on a service that
will facilitate the forwarding of email itineraries to an email address, which will
incorporate [those off-channel bookings into] the travel tracking database. It's
one of the things I asked for last year, so I expect to have that sometime this
year. We don't want to encourage someone to book outside the system, but if you
have to and you still have a valid business reason for doing so, then you must forward
your itinerary to this email address so it's captured in our traveler tracking database.
BTN: OK, so what do your systems do when an incident
Wakida: Amex has all the bookings. If anything comes up,
we're able to get a report and contact travelers for a safety check through emails
and phone calls to confirm their well-being, but it's a manual process.
Wohlleber: The agency is not contracted or compensated
to [reach out to travelers when an incident occurs]. We take it on ourselves to
do the follow-ups. We will send out an email to travelers to say, "You were
on a list of travelers who may be in a region or may have been impacted. Please
get back to us to let us know you're safe, if you were impacted and where you are."
When we do that, it's very fulfilling because the associates think less about Big
Brother and more about, "Someone is actually looking out for me." That
allows us to have a good one-on-one connection with some of our travelers. [The
agents] can certainly provide advice or, depending on the severity, if the traveler
or associate contacts Egencia for assistance and if it's travel related to get them
on the next flight, they would certainly provide that. But any medical [requirements]
or extractions, they would defer back to us.
BTN: Does your insurance company deal with the travelers
who need to be extracted or need medical attention?
Wohlleber: Yes, that's exactly what would happen. We've
had a handful of medical emergencies that were handled that way. The medical insurance
provider opens a case, gets a little deeper in the incident and provides guidance,
assistance and whatever resources are necessary. We do not presently have relationships
or services provided by the likes of International SOS or others. I have proposed
and pitched those types of services to senior management, but I've not been able
to get buy-in at that level. Budget is one aspect. We're certainly leveraging media
outlets and informative emails from our agency about current events and the impact
on travel on ground and air.
I've talked with our HR person about getting a single point of contact in place, maybe through our broker or insurance company, that can triage the calls or coordinate coverage."
BTN: What would improve your ability to manage travel
Wakida: I've talked with our HR person about getting a
single point of contact in place, maybe through our broker or insurance company,
that can triage the calls or coordinate coverage. Amex GBT has an app that we want
to deploy. You can book travel and it has potential for mass communication and traveler
tracking. From a security perspective, I'm hoping it can be like a check-in tool
and maybe get push notifications for high- and medium-risk countries and some standard
reporting. We don't have a third party like iJet or ISOS. However, we're hoping
that through the agency's tool, mobile app and partnership with a third-party security
and risk provider, we can have that [process] more automated with push text messaging
or a check-in button. The other avenue is if HR has the budget for [an iJET or ISOS].
Eventually I'd like to integrate a registration tool to see who's attending meetings.
Wohlleber: Introducing a service like ISOS or an equivalent
[would help]. The company is growing globally, so we're going to be finding more
of these outer regions that our folks have never traveled to before or traveling
to more regularly. Having information or resources to help acquaint them with the
customs, currencies, dos and don'ts, the kinds of immunizations that are needed,
medical advice for a given market and a time frame to be able to get those taken
care of so that you're not impacted—that's certainly a pitch that I brought up in
an executive risk management meeting not too long ago. Expanding the footprint of
our managed travel program would be ideal, as well, but that would take some time
[to get] resources and coordinate.
BTN: John, have you considered implementing tools
like TripLink or Traxo to capture more off-channel bookings?
not one we've explored just yet. Like with most new technology, we're not on the
leading edge of it. It's more wait and see. There's a counterintuitive idea that
if we allow for open booking and or consolidating the open booking data ala TripIt,
people will deviate and want to book on their own outside of the managed travel
program. It's a catch-22. In terms of markets outside of the three I mentioned,
that may be a good interim next step to at least capture data and have eyes on
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