Since launching our latest animations that provide travel safety tips for Women and LGBT travellers we seem to have stumbled into an area of travel risk management that many programmes don’t want or don’t know how to tackle; namely personal travel risk.
Training and educating in regard of personal travel risk is perceived as being fraught with complications; not least because travel policies and procedures are generally based on home-country legislation, attitudes and cultures rather than the reality of the situation at the destination. Many policies therefore treat all travellers as equal and it is often easier to stick with this assumption for the whole risk management process and assume personal travel risk is equal.
To complicate the issue further the programme owner can’t make guesses or assumptions about what personal travel risks an individual employee may face. If we can’t assume the gender, sex or religion of an employee, it is very difficult to provide advice or training equal to the risks they might face in a location.
Very often the benchmark for traveller equality is a middle aged, straight, white male; the demographic that probably faces the least personal risk of all travellers. Subsequently the procedures, risk assessment, education, training and support we offer individuals is based on this ‘least at-risk’ population. This benchmark means that the ‘most at-risk’ in our travelling populations can be let down on the duty of care owed to them.
If a business trip is being organised to a country where women are not treated equally to men and homosexuality can be punishable by death, should the travel risk management and individual traveller risk assessment not be based around the most vulnerable in your travelling population? All travellers should be provided with enough information to make their own risk assessment of whether they will conduct this trip or whether the dangers are too great. As we can’t make assumptions about any individual is it not justified that the lowest common denominator should be the most at-risk in your organisation?
On first appearance it seems strange but personal risk is probably lowest in hostile environments where the everyday dangers and the protective measures put in place to prevent these dangers almost completely nullify personal risk. I bring this up because all organisations have very clear travel policies for these locations, however, some lower risk countries may present an equally dangerous environment for a traveller who is oblivious to the fact that their fundamental being or lifestyle may not be culturally accepted or even illegal at their destination.
We rarely choose where we travel for business and perhaps it is time to look at personal risk as we do much more tangible risks, such as kidnap, crime or natural disasters. If the destination poses elevated risk for any individuals in your travelling population, everyone receive the education and training to help them make informed decisions about whether they are OK to travel and what precautionary measures they may need to take.
In my experience the least at-risk would probably benefit from this blanket education; not only to remind them about travel essentials, but also to make them more considerate of their colleagues concerns if travelling in a group.
This post was written by Saul Shanagher of beTravelwise, who are exhibiting at this week's Business Travel Show. You can still register for a free visitor pass at www.businesstravelshow.com.