19 Feb

TMCs can play a vital role in helping business travellers travel safely

Recent UK Government figures found that UK residents took almost 6.6m overseas business trips, a figure that has remained fairly consistent in recent years. Although improvements in technology such as video conferencing have provided alternative communication options for companies, face to face meetings are still an essential part of the business mix.

Managers who send their staff overseas on business trips will understandably have a number of concerns regarding their duty of care towards their employees. ABTA’s most recent research among buyers of business travel found that amongst the top concerns for managers were terrorism and security threats, as well as harassment or violence against staff. We also asked what kind of problems staff had actually encountered on business trips and whilst the percentage reporting problems in these areas was low, safety and security must be taken very seriously.

Using a reputable Travel Management Company is one way for managers to address their concerns over the safety and security of staff on business trips. TMCs should be able to provide reassurance that their suppliers are reputable and trustworthy.

Just as with the wider public, younger business travellers are often keen on using accommodation or transport services provided by peer to peer businesses and other “disrupters”. But the way these newer business model operate may not always meet the requirements of organisations’ staff welfare policies. TMCs can offer guidance on this and more suitable, convenient alternatives in line with the requirements of their corporate clients.

We live in a volatile world, with certain destinations affected by political instability, terrorist threats and war. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through its network of embassies, consulates and other diplomatic sources, monitors potential safety threats to British nationals throughout the world. If it views that the threat level has increased and is unacceptably high, it can and will advise against travel to a destination. At this point British nationals in the relevant destination should leave at the earliest opportunity.

Business travellers, unlike leisure visitors, may have to conduct business in countries with high levels of risk and so it is very important that changes to FCO advice are closely monitored. TMCs are ideally placed to monitor changes, contact their customers to inform them of the change and arrange repatriation as soon as is possible. Those who are ABTA Members have access to ABTA’s operational bulletin service.  It is very important that this monitoring takes place; failure to act could have extremely serious consequences.

FCO advice is also an invaluable source of information on local laws and customs which can vary drastically from the United Kingdom. TMCs should be fully aware of any differences and inform their customers accordingly, again this is a requirement of ABTA’s Code of Conduct for its Members. Not only could this prevent a client breaking the law, but also avoid committing a serious social faux pas and even help seal a deal.