< PrevNext > 2020 Business Travel Buyer's Handbook Taking On Travel Risk Management Covid-19 Update: Travel Management Focuses Squarely on Duty of Care By Adam Perrotta / July 27, 2020 / Contact Reporter Share Download ChapterWith the global Covid-19 pandemic underscoring the critical duty corporations shoulder in ensuring the health and safety of their travelers, travel buyers and suppliers are re-envisioning the processes and services that will be necessary for companies to manage risk stemming from the virus, so they can safely and confidently send their employees back onto the road. Many have also reoriented their views to push duty of care over cost control, which may reduce travel volume as each trip becomes a bigger investment.While industry technologists have focused on tools to help travel managers communicate with travelers in real time and mitigate risk, some effective levers are already in the travel managers' hands. Policy mandates, for example, may be easier to deploy as travelers look for guidance from their companies. Trip approval workflows and support technologies are coming back into vogue. Even off-channel data capture tools are getting configured to drive rogue bookings back into the channel. Corporate security and risk management partners, who consistently underscore the criticality of accurate itinerary information, will be onboard with the shift as business travel resumes.Pre-trip approval workflows are widely expected to be the rule of the day for many organizations for the foreseeable future, both as a demand management strategy and as a risk reduction tactic. On the flip side, some travel departments will focus on empowering managers and employees to make informed, safe decisions about travel without bogging down the process. Deciding where your company falls in that spectrum will drive many TRM decisions as business travel recovers.Deploying Tools & DataSome of the most vital tools during the early stages of travel's recovery are virus trackers designed to give travelers and travel managers insight into Covid hotspots and outbreak-related risks in specific markets. A bevy of travel management companies and risk specialists have rolled out such trackers, touting the tools as sources of essential information for the post-Covid travel landscape. As the coronavirus roiled travel in Asia during the first quarter of 2020, travel safety and critical event specialists were early onto the scene in offering Covid-monitoring capabilities, adding virus data to their existing risk monitoring platforms, utilizing data sources such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University.Since then, TMCs have gotten onboard in a big way, with nearly all major and midsize players launching Covid-19 risk management and information hubs that offer vital data on virus hotspots, travel restrictions and alerts and supplier safety and hygiene procedures. Such services are expected to be in high demand among corporate travel departments, and TMCs are positioning themselves to serve that demand—adding Covid-related risk monitoring as another key value proposition to clients with associated fees. Meanwhile, end-suppliers in the air, hotel and ground transport spaces have provided some standardization around hygiene and cleanliness standards. ATPCO Routehappy's Reassurance Universal Product Attributes and the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Safe Stay certification are among the most visible of such standardizations, which have been integrated into a number of supplier channels for easy access by travel managers and travelers. Essential risk information is most effective when it can be linked directly to booking tools, so travelers can see vital information during the booking process. Travel managers can work with security counterparts to set and adapt travel policies and workflows based on key data points—for instance, by restricting travel to areas with higher infection rates only to essential trips, and forwarding high-risk itineraries to corporate safety and security teams for review. Travel managers note that communication can't be one dimensional or limited to the booking workflow. It must be ongoing and dynamic, with the capability to convey emergency and on-the-fly adjustments based on new data—sometimes during a trip. As such, mobile travel management apps are viewed as an increasingly essential channel, and app providers have been working to integrate risk monitoring and communication capabilities into their offerings. The importance of Covid-specific risk assessment and monitoring presumably will decline in importance as the pandemic abates and a vaccine eventually is delivered. But the sudden onset of the virus—and the chaos it sowed—has made clear the importance of having systems in place to monitor potential future large-scale health risk events so corporate travel programs can be better prepared next time around. Some observers even expect many corporations to create executive-level health and safety officers to oversee organizational efforts to monitor and deal with potential future outbreaks. Meanwhile, for travel departments, the ability to track and forecast risk such as viral outbreaks and other disruptions with the potential to disrupt an entire company or industry could earn travel a more central role within many organizations—granting travel managers a bigger seat at the table for strategic and operational decision-making companywide.