There’s an oft-quoted (and re-worded) aphorism about perseverance originally coined by Robert Strauss, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and the Soviet Union, and a considerable figurehead in mid-20th century American politics.

“It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired; you quit when the gorilla is tired.”

So forgive me, I’m going to re-word it again.

Because Travel Risk Management is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired; you quit when the gorilla is tired.

Except in this case, the gorilla’s been shot-gunning Red Bulls, sipping on espresso, and munching candy bars. He also has 194 identical cousins who can tap in for him at any given moment. (That’s not a completely random number. There are currently 195 independent sovereign states in the world, including South Sudan and independent Taiwan, for you geography buffs.)

Why the blog preamble? Because this is serious stuff, and I needed to get your attention so you stick with me for more than the average 7-second-attention-span.

Time to start thinking about Travel Risk Management

So let's get down to business.

We often talk about how great (and simultaneously nerve-wracking) the travel industry is because it is constantly changing. Compounding that, the very impetuses for Travel Risk Management (socio-political circumstances, terrorist factions, treaties, cease-fires, human nature, disease, cultural misunderstandings, innocent mistakes, just to name a few) are utterly amorphous; they’re changing all the time. As are the major details that you can actually define: your travelers, your executives, your corporate liability.

What does all this mean about your Travel Risk Management? It means if you think you’ve already addressed it, you need to address it again. And if you haven’t addressed it, well, don’t get caught holding a banana.

Why It’s Important.

BRASS TACKS: Travel Risk Management is important because your traveling employees are covered by workman’s comp. It is a volatile yet undeniable aspect of your Duty of Care. Your company is liable for any injury or illness incurred during business travel, and you are responsible for travelers’ safety. The fact of the matter is: the hazards of corporate travel are the hazards of employment.

What It Looks Like Today

I checked in with Maureen Brady, EVP of Client and Consulting Services to weigh in on Duty of Care and why it matters. This is a topic she is passionate about, having spent more than her share of time overseeing travel programs and as a road warrior.

“The form of travel risk management programs will vary, based on travel footprint, travel volume, company culture, and a number of other details. But regardless, Duty of Care obligations require that a corporation demonstrate stewardship in ensuring traveler safety. That means setting policy to identify safe airlines, hotels, and transportation, and making sure your travelers are safe and covered by insurance.”

She even identified one curve ball that might not be written into your policy.

“You need to be able to respond when a traveler expresses concern or makes a request for assistance for safety reasons. Whether that comes in the form of requesting a security escort in a volatile area, or in requesting black car service home from the airport when the flight is scheduled to land at 2:00 AM, that will vary.”

Empty Airport What risk-preventative measures does your policy provide to a traveler arriving in an empty airport?

Constantly Changing

The architecture of your Travel Risk Management program needs constant fine-tuning.

Shelby LeMaire, Corporate Travel Manager for iRobot Corporation and emeritus member of the World Travel, Inc Client Advisory Board, is one of the travel industry’s go-to sources for Risk Management Program development. Over the past few years, she conceptualized, developed, and now manages and guides the evolution of a state-of-the-art risk management program for iRobot, which has an extensive travel footprint.

“The duty of care for the travel industry is to protect the travelers against foreseeable travel risks.  That is a constant.  However, ever-changing global risk change the standard of care of risk management. The recognition of the need to continually evolve and improve the standard of care fuels industry growth and corporate risk philosophy.”

Shelby ensures the education and training of her travelers through internal initiatives and by partnering with a security provider. Additionally, Shelby works closely with World Travel, Inc. to ensure trip approvals and bookings are appropriately audited. She executes regular mock trials to test iRobot’s entire risk management and incident response plans.

“Up until this point, the industry’s duty of care scope focused on travel abroad, which applies when a traveler leaves their homeland. But just because a traveler is in their own country doesn’t mean they could not be at significant risk when traveling. I consider duty of care to be universal.  I am bringing this universal concept into all of our travel risk management plans.”

Shelby currently serves on the board of an industry-leading travel risk management provider and has spoken at numerous industry events about this topic, including NEBTA, GBTA, and several World Travel, Inc. Symposiums.  She will be speaking at the Duty of Care Conference in New York this October.

Prepare, Don’t Panic.

Danger Thieves - Source: Thunder Circus Travel Risk: Everything from bombs to bugs to bag loss.

The important takeaway is this: there is no cut-and-dried “how to assemble your perfect travel risk management program.” You need to examine your company culture and your travel footprint, and assess your needs. Your Corporate Risk Office, HR Department, Travel Department, and Corporate Insurance overseers all need to be involved in the process. As Maureen Brady says, “It’s up to the corporation to determine what is safe and what is unsafe.”

You’ll also need to sit down with your TMC to define the parameters of travel so that we can start proactively auditing your travel bookings in conjunction with these rules. That include questionable carrier alerts, max-fly-rule violations, destination alerts, or any other number of preventative alert measures that our WorldQC™ system can be optimized for.

And, you have to find effective ways to communicate with your traveler, on how to handle everything from a bomb threat to a bad stomach bug when traveling on business. Not to mention: establishing the rules around “bleisure” travelers, but that’s a topic for another time.

"Tally Me Bananas"

(in which the known and unknown variables of your Travel Risk Management program are bananas, and the threat you have to ward off is, well, the gorilla.)

The fact of the matter is, if you’re not regularly revisiting your Travel Risk Management plan and re-engaging your travelers and executives to consider new threats, new abilities (questionable carriers can now be flagged by WorldQC™), and established protocols (pop quiz: in the event of an emergency, who is your traveler supposed to contact?), you’re compounding your risk.

So what’s next? Start with what you have, and determine what your current travel risk management plan parameters are. Then you can begin to identify outdated measures, opportunities for improvement, and general efficacy. If you need help with this process, talk to your World Travel, Inc. Account Manager, or try taking a Travel Risk Management Assessment (most Travel Risk Management providers offer one online). Next, assemble your team as the real work begins. Don’t forget to consult with your TMC and maybe talk to a Travel Risk Management provider if your travel footprint necessitates one.

Need more help? Contact your World Travel, Inc. Account Manager for information on Travel Risk Management providers we work with.


Chesley Turner

Written by Chesley Turner