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Making risk part of the travel approval process

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Standard travel approval systems typically focus on managing ever tighter budgets. But with the growing awareness and concerns around traveller safety and security there’s now a real requirement for risk to form a fundamental part of the business travel approval process.

Why is travel risk authorisation so important?

Although risk policies can provide guidance and parameters within which corporate travellers and travel managers can operate, the risk landscape itself is dynamic and can change daily or even hourly. Even low risk countries can fall prey to dynamic threats such as man-made attacks or natural disasters with scant notice. 

Under Duty of Care and Health & Safety legislation, it’s illegal to put the onus on the individual traveller to take a view on the complex global risk landscape, armed only with the company policy and general guidance. Organisations have a duty to not just set clear policies for those travelling on company business but also to ensure that relevant due diligence is taken to mitigate risk prior to travel. 

A risk approval system can do far more than just accept or reject trips. It can:

  • Capture trips to higher risk zones and alert the necessary stakeholders who can then decide on the best course of action – direct a trip to be cancelled or rescheduled; approve but only with additional support, security, training etc.
  • Ensure the correct workflow of approval by the relevant and appropriate individuals
  • Act as an audit trail, allowing corporates to demonstrate their fulfilment of duty of care 

Easing the admin burden 

For a risk approval system to work it must be made as easy as possible for both the traveller and the travel approver to use. The ideal solution will have trip details automatically cross-matched against dynamic risk data, with proposed trips to higher risk areas triggering an alert to the relevant manager. Trips booked to lower risk areas can pass through the approval system automatically, freeing time to focus on the higher risk exceptions. 

The pre or post booking argument 

Some corporates choose the pre-booking approach, as they feel this ensures no trips are booked unless approved, avoiding cancellation fees. However, obtaining pre-booking travel authorisation can be painful for the traveller and laborious for the travel or security manager, adding administration and potential delays, all of which have their own cost implication. 

The benefit of the post-booking approach is that it doesn’t hold up the process. The potential downside is that a booked trip may need to be cancelled. In reality though, the number of trips needing to be cancelled or amended due to breaching accepted risk parameters is extremely low. 

The post-booking method also allows for far greater automation. By connecting directly with the GDSs, a post-booking tool can pick up the traveller data without them submitting any additional forms or requests, thus removing a whole tranche of manual data entry. This also ensures that the approval decision process is based on actual booking data, providing far greater accuracy and far less likelihood of details changing. 

Ultimately, the decision on whether to go down the pre or post booking route will vary depending on the type and size of the individual organisation. Although benefits can be demonstrated for both options, the post booking method does appear to be more effective for larger organisations. 

In summary, budget control of business travel will certainly continue to be critical, but the security of people is a fundamental component of operational resilience, and risk assessment and mitigation must therefore be a key element in any travel authorisation process.