Blog 27 April, 2022 Back
Pre-Trip Risk Assessments - A Travel Manager’s Guide to Destination Security Vetting
Organisations, whatever their size, have both a moral and legal responsibility to protect their personnel when asking them to travel as part of their role. But providing the necessary duty of care for employees goes much further than simply being able to locate them on a map and respond should the worst happen.
In all areas of business, information and intelligence are the cornerstones of effective decision making. Operational decisions should be based on an accurate understanding of the landscape and this is as true for travel security as it is for any other business area. Prior to any trip it's therefore important to have a clear and accurate real-time picture of the threats and risks your people could potentially face when undertaking travel assignments or doing business abroad.
With travellers becoming more acutely aware of potential risks relating to travel, their understanding of the need for risk assessments and duty of care compliance is also greater, and that’s driving a more positive attitude towards travel risk management in general.
In the following guide we look at how Travel Managers without an in-house security team can start to approach the important task of destination security vetting.
1. Consult official information sites
When seeking information on particular destinations, consider sites such as the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or equivalent for your home country. Although officially created to provide general information and advice to help individuals make their own informed decisions about foreign travel, they can also be a useful source of information for organisations arranging business travel or overseas assignments for their personnel.2. Gather information from additional third-party sources
Even sites such as the FCO openly recommend that their advice should not be relied upon as the sole source of information and should be supplemented with additional information wherever possible. Also consider sources such as social media, online message forums and blogs. Monitor local news channels for information specific to the particular area as not all local incidents will be deemed worthy of global coverage but could still pose a significant threat to your personnel.
Sites such as ‘Global Risk Insights’ can provide you with in-depth political risk news and analysis from around the world, but news channels and social media are more likely to cover emerging threats and potential incidents so it’s important to keep a close eye on a variety of sources.
The more sources of information you have available to you, the better you will be able to corroborate or discount single sources and therefore understand the true picture. This is a key part of turning information into valuable, actionable intelligence to inform your decision making.3. Seek local advice from your in-country contacts
The detail provided by many official sources will not extend to individual streets or neighbourhoods so first-hand local information and advice can be invaluable. If possible, try to obtain destination information from in-country suppliers or other trusted contacts as they should be able to provide more specific insight into an area. Even countries that are generally deemed safe to travel to are likely to have neighbourhoods that your travellers should avoid, particularly at night. Local contacts are also often the best for recommending suitable hotels and trusted transport options. In addition, they should be able to warn you of any imminent events that may change the typical dynamic of the area. Ask them about forthcoming holiday celebrations, local elections, anniversaries of previous civil unrest etc. that could potentially cause disruption or disturbances whilst your personnel are in situ.4. Refer to your internal stakeholders
Understand which regions, if any, your insurance states that your employees can and cannot travel to. For example, your policy may not provide cover if travel is arranged to a country where the FCO advises against all but essential travel. A business trip, however important, is unlikely to be classed as ‘essential’. Also, confirm that your policy includes the necessary cover for different scenarios – e.g. driving in particular countries; requirements or considerations for personnel with pre-existing medical conditions; personnel extending their stay for their own reasons etc. Also liaise with your legal and HR stakeholders to ensure that you (and your travellers) are abreast of any destination based regulations. Transactions that are deemed perfectly within legal boundaries in your home country may see your personnel falling foul of the law in others.5. Don’t forget health and medical considerations
Being affected by medical issues whilst travelling can have significant impact on both the individual and, in turn, the organisation. Information and advice on travel-related risks and disease, including vaccine recommendations, can be obtained via health professionals in the UK and travellers should be advised to consult a health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before travel. You can also check the country information and advice on the TravelHealthPro website and NHS Scotland’s fitfortravel website. Also consider the availability of general and more specialised medical resources and facilities in the destination country. Should travellers find themselves in need of assistance, how confident are you that this help will be easily accessible?
Occupational Travel Health
At Anvil we understand the importance of being able to readily access comprehensive occupational travel health support, so we’ve developed a range of appropriate services that cover all stages of travel – pre, during and post, so you can cover every aspect of your employees’ journeys. Furthermore, we’ll work with you to create a customised package of complete travel health and wellbeing support that uniquely fits your organisation and the individuals within it. We can help you:
- Support travellers with pre-existing physical and psychiatric diagnoses
- Support travellers who develop travel related physical and psychiatric illnesses
- Promote wellness and the benefits of emotional wellbeing to your travelling population
Also consider the individual traveller. Different risk levels may apply to different types of traveller. Some travellers may know the place they’re travelling to very well and blend in with the locals with ease. Other types of traveller may stand out more from the crowd. Some people may be at greater risk in some places – for example people of different gender, ethnic background or sexuality. It’s important to be aware of local customs, beliefs and attitudes and instil upon travellers the importance of respecting these views, whatever their own beliefs.7. Constantly review the information gathered
Even in regions deemed low risk, situations can change in an instant. Sites such as the FCO aim to keep their travel advice under constant review and to update it as quickly as possible if they’re aware of an incident that could significantly affect travellers. Although their advice may be updated several times a day in a developing crisis, there is always a potential time delay in the information being published, and they will only tend to cover major incidents. It’s therefore important to not only monitor such sites vigilantly but to also keep a close watchful eye on all your other information sources. The information that you gathered pre-trip can become outdated incredibly quickly so constant monitoring is essential.
8. Subscribe to a dedicated Risk Service
When you consider the number of destinations that your personnel may travel to, and how quickly situations can change, keeping on top of all the information is a huge ask, particularly if you don’t have an in-house security team on hand to assist. A professional risk management company should be able to provide you with the help that you need. Look for an experienced supplier that specialises in providing relevant real-time information. They should be able to consolidate and analyse the most credible risk information for all global countries and major cities and be able to map this against your organisation’s own content such as your own foreign travel advice, in-country support contacts, in-country assets and the location of your people.
As a minimum, ensure that they can provide you with the following:
- In-depth global risk intelligence analysis and reporting – delivering specific, relevant insight on political, economic, environmental, commercial, health, security and terrorism risks that could affect your people;
- Individual travel risk assessments – evaluating and documenting key potential hazards in a particular area or country, including identifying the level of risk and suggesting steps to mitigate and control it;
- Specific hotel and meeting venue risk assessments – gathering proximity, evacuation route and known incident reports in the vicinity of authorised hotels and venues.
Ideally, they should be able to provide this as part of a fully integrated travel risk management solution that will not only arm you with the required pre-trip information but also continue to alert you and your travellers in real-time to any potential threats and prescribe what action to take.
Providing the necessary duty of care for your travelling employees is a fundamental requirement. Travel decisions should only be made once you fully understand the risks you could be exposing your travellers to; have properly assessed those risks and are happy that the appropriate risk treatment measures are in place. Destination security vetting should therefore form a central part of any pre-trip preparations
There’s obviously a lot for organisations to think about and to mitigate but that’s where travel risk management experts such as Anvil can help. We can steer organisations through all these critical stages and can automate many of the processes to ensure that even organisations without internal resources can confidently and effectively navigate a safe return to travel.
Setting the standard for travel risk management
There’s also a new standard which provides a great framework for organisations to follow. ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management offers guidance on how to manage the risks to organisations and their travellers. The standard sets out a structured approach to the development, implementation, evaluation and review of travel risk management policies and programs, and the assessment and treatment of travel risks. ISO 31030 establishes clear guidelines for assessing risks related to travel, and how to manage and benchmark those risks. It removes the guesswork and provides clarity in an area that’s never been more critical.
If you have a travel risk management program in place, you can benchmark it against ISO 31030 here -
For further information on setting up or reviewing your travel risk management program, or to learn more about the ISO 31030 standard, speak to one of our experienced team directly on +44(0)20 7938 4221 (UK) or +1 (813) 514-6276 (US) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.