There are a multitude of contributing factors that affect the safety of travellers, many beyond the control of the individuals themselves. Business travel organisers and leisure tour operators both have the opportunity to pre-plan and create processes to prevent and mitigate risks to ensure traveller safety (so far as is reasonably practicable), but which industry fairs better when comparing the core components?
The legal requirement to ensure ‘all reasonable skill and care’ has been taken to keep holidaymakers safe has long been embedded in the Travel Package Regulations for leisure travel, placing the responsibility squarely with the package provider. Tour operators must assess the safety of the accommodation, transportation and activities/excursions, but what about the relative safety of the destinations their clients are heading to? Most companies follow the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice when it comes to in-country safety to comply with insurance policies, but there are no requirements for the operators to assess the destination for the plethora of potential threats facing their clients. Since the tragic events which took place in Sousse in 2015, when 38 people including 30 British tourists were killed when a gunman attacked a hotel, operators must now make their customers aware of the threat level in their country of choice, and there are high profile awareness campaigns for staying safe whilst on holiday. But the decision on whether to take that risk lies with the individual themselves rather than the tour operator. Despite this, if there is a serious incident and clients needed evacuating, it would be the operator who would need to assist their customers with repatriation.
So what about the business traveller? Companies who take their ‘Duty of Care’ responsibilities seriously will already have a Travel Risk Management programme in place which focuses on the safety and well-being of their employees, and, from 2021, there will be a new International Standard to help all organisations achieve this. Built on the principles of the ISO 31000 Risk Management Standard, ISO 31030 will guide corporate entities on how to effectively understand, manage, assess and treat travel risks, together with advice on how to engage and communicate with their employees. This is a significant step for the industry, and perhaps long overdue given that consumers have been protected in this regard for almost 30 years.
How do they compare?
- Travel Planning & Risk Identification
Client demand has led to leisure tour operators choosing ever more experiential destinations and evaluations of the county’s safety will be a part of the product selection process, but the customers do not always take into account safety when booking, whereas the business traveller is supported with much more sophisticated tools, including country risk ratings and security advice. There will be a strategy for managing travel risk, a policy in place for travel bookers to follow based on the profile of each individual.
- Risk Assessments
Business travel focuses on the traveller themselves, country risk ratings and security of hotels. Leisure travel audits the supply chain only. Advantage the holidaymaker here currently, as whilst business travel risk assessments are extremely thorough, there is no onus on assessing the safety of accommodation or transport, something ISO 31030 will actively encourage. Supplier auditing and correcting defects creates a safer environment for the leisure traveller, whereas the business travel system currently focuses on mitigating and avoiding risks by setting policies for which suppliers to book.
Organisations will ensure that their employees are educated about potential risks – specific to themselves and/or the destination and general – whereas leisure travellers largely need to use their own judgement and research good safety practices themselves. Individuals who travel on business are much more accustomed to evaluating risks naturally as, through training and experience, they are generally better equipped to notice threats, whereas holidaymakers are relaxed and sometimes unaware of potential danger.
This is a constant and sophisticated process for the business traveller. Systems track for changes in the safety and security situation of all countries 24/7 and can send alerts to travel managers and employees. Many businesses operate traveller tracking for their employees so they can pinpoint them instantly. The holidaymaker would generally not have access to this, although it could be argued that they don’t need it as much due to the nature of their visit and activities while overseas. In an emergency, knowing where all your customers are located exactly would clearly be an advantage.
- Incident Management
Leisure travellers will rely on local authorities and ground agents in emergency situations, whereas business travellers have additional tools such as emergency back up and might even benefit from evacuation in extreme circumstances.
There is common ground here and both industries realise there is an absolute requirement to ensure that both the country and supplier have adequate controls in place. This is largely being led by Governments still at present, but over time tour operators and businesses will be required to start making informed decisions themselves on whether it’s safe to travel to countries based on their response to COVID-19 and the current status.
And the winner is…
There should be no competition and no winners or losers as ultimately, protecting people’s safety should be at the forefront of all endeavors for both tour operators on organisations alike. COVID-19 has become such a focal point for travel safety that there is a danger that other travel risks are overlooked, particularly security and areas of accommodation safety such as fire, fuel, food hygiene and water management (including Legionella prevention). Both industries could learn from each other as there are benefits to each approach and the leisure industry could definitely make improvements by adopting some of the guidance from the forthcoming ISO 31030 Standard. Business travel could follow the leisure industry’s lead when it comes to supplier assessments and will have to address the dreaded ‘Bleisure’ issue – the fairly common practice of business travellers adding on leisure extensions to their work-related trips. The main issue here, from a legal point of view, is who has responsibility for the individuals’ safety and welfare during the leisure element of the trip? Businesses are increasingly turning to clearly defined policies, communicated regularly and stating what can and can’t be done while away on business to encourage compliance and mitigate the potential risks. The one potential loser from the continuing efforts to improve travel safety for both business travellers and holidaymakers is the DIY traveller – those who don’t book a package holiday through a reputable tour operator who engages in travel safety management have no reassurance as to the safety standards of the accommodation, transport and activities/excursions being booked.
Sanderson Phillips are able to work with any organisation to ensure they have adequate Travel Safety processes in place. Whether you are a leisure tour operator looking to implement a Risk Management Strategy or review/upgrade existing processes, or a business seeking to have greater comfort that your supply chains are meeting the required standards, our auditing and risk assessment services will provide the backdrop to your traveller safety strategies. Contact us for further information.