5 Strategies for Travel Risk Management

“Zoom fatigue” may be enough to make you nostalgic for jet lag. Business travel industry leaders predict we still have a long road ahead for business travel recovery, but increased vaccination rates may help more travelers feel ready to get back on the road. Is your company prepared to meet new travel standards safely?

If in-person meetings and business travel are in your company’s future, now is the time to update your policies and plans to reflect the new realities of corporate travel.

Make Travel a Team Effort

In pre-pandemic times, it may have felt sufficient to handle travel arrangements ad hoc. Only about 60% of businesses have an official corporate travel policy in place.

Neglecting a travel policy is likely to end up causing budget and compliance issues, especially as health concerns and new business norms continue to affect business travel recovery. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts it will take until 2025 for travel spending to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Now is a critical time to be strategic about redefining what a successful travel program looks like at your organization. Legal, HR, insurance, and financial decision-makers need to be involved along with travel managers to consider budget expectations, legal and compliance concerns, and how to accommodate employees with health risks while adhering to workplace privacy standards. Your travel management system should be easy to share between multiple departments to improve communication and collaboration.

Enable Supervisor Approval

Adding more steps to the booking process can sometimes feel like an unpleasant sticking point. But with shifting guidelines for safe travel, it can be helpful for managers to confirm arrangements.

Keep booking as streamlined as possible with travel management tools that automatically screen for budget-friendly flights and hotels. Approval workflows work faster when you designate two trip approvers in the settings, so even if one manager is out of office or in back-to-back meetings, someone can be on hand to approve the proposed itinerary.

Watch for New Travel Safety Measures

As travelers slowly return to airports and meeting venues, some tech companies are racing to provide safety solutions. Multiple apps, including CommonPass and Excelsior Pass, are launching “vaccine passports” that verify vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results without compromising private medical details.

What this means for businesses: Corporate travelers may be asked to have a QR code ready to scan to gain admittance to conferences, trade shows, and other events, and possibly as part of airport screening as well. Right now most apps are in early stages and may be localized, meaning travelers may need to download multiple apps depending on what different venues are using. Managers can support travelers by confirming which apps are needed en route and at the destination so travelers can prepare in advance.

Reassess Safety Guidelines

Your travel management software solution is a natural way to build in parameters that reflect your company’s travel policy safety guidelines. Once you’ve decided on updates to your travel policy, adjust travel management settings accordingly.

For example, while most airlines mandate mask-wearing for passengers, some may be more stringent about enforcing this requirement than others. And Delta is the only airline still blocking middle seats, with this policy currently due to expire at the end of April 2021. Managers need to consider whether to restrict employees from booking flights with airlines that don’t meet your company’s preferred safety standards.

Think through safety at every point in a travel itinerary, too. Where will travelers wait in airports before flights or during layovers? Can you expand employee access to premium areas such as lounges that may be more frequently maintained and have less foot traffic? Is an employee’s hotel located such that they’d have to use public transportation or taxi to get to a conference site, and would this be reason to book a pricier hotel in walking distance?

Weigh Risks Strategically

Travel managers are understandably concerned with how to account for coronavirus risk to business travelers, but don’t let pandemic risk concerns overshadow other travel risks. Driving may be safer than flying in terms of COVID-19 exposure, but car accidents are also an important consideration. If an employee needs to travel on a Friday evening to make a Saturday event, it may be better to opt for a flight than insist they take on a long night drive.

Your travel policy is a good place to clarify how travelers should balance coronavirus risk against more commonplace pre-pandemic concerns. You can add or update guidelines such as using a personal vehicle for destinations within 200 miles or a certain number of driving hours, unless timing requires driving past 9:00 p.m. Or, you might adjust your policy to allow more travelers to rent a car at their destination instead of using public transportation.

Finally, when your new policy is ready, make sure to communicate changes clearly. Travel managers can provide essential leadership to support employees as they find their way into a new travel landscape. Clear guidance and thoughtful updates to your policy can go a long way to help travelers feel supported on their next trip.