Last year provided more than its fair share of challenges for the travel risk management (TRM) sector and those charged with managing travel risk were at the forefront of deploying an appropriate response to one of the most demanding years in modern travel history.
While there is hope that this year will be better, there are still many risks travellers will need to mitigate. Here are some of the key areas travel risk managers will need to focus on in 2021.
Keep ahead of the Covid-19 testing curve
If you haven’t yet decided on how you’re going to test your employees for overseas travel, or in the workplace, you’re already behind the curve. In fact, a long way behind. There are many providers of Covid-19 tests but knowing the right one to fit your requirements will take some research.
Testing requirements are changing on a regular basis and some providers have not been able to keep up with demand to provide tests and certificates in a timely manner. This, in some cases, is impacting the ability of the traveller to keep to their plans. Travel managers will need to source reputable suppliers, who can grow with them as demand increases. Get recommendations and be prepared to negotiate on the cost.
Know the Covid-19 vaccination requirements
Whilst vaccinations are just beginning to roll out to those who need them the most, planning on how travellers will receive their vaccination in the future will be a key component to international travel. With some airlines already adopting the ‘no vaccination, no ticket’ approach, Covid-19 vaccination and health certificates are likely to form as much a part of international travel as your passport. Making sure your travellers are appropriately protected, particularly if undertaking short-notice travel, will be imperative.
Knowing where to source vaccinations, allowing time for them to be effective and booking travel will require planning, as will being familiar with the entry requirements for the countries you are travelling to.
Cybersecurity should be front of mind
Perhaps one of the greatest threats to business travellers is the damage caused by a cyber security breach. While the world has been focussed on Covid-19, cyber criminals have been honing their skills and identifying targets. Travellers are more vulnerable now than ever, yet most don’t realise it.
The recent Solarwinds attack, where hackers gained access to sensitive data via a software update, prompted Microsoft to describe it as ‘an attack that is remarkable for its scope, sophistication and impact’ and is certainly a warning to us all. For most organisations, an attack wouldn’t need to be as sophisticated as the Solarwinds one, in order to be effective.
The harm caused by a cybersecurity breach can be catastrophic. Organisations should assume their sensitive data is more likely to be exposed, and earlier than ever before. If you are in any doubt as to whether you need to invest in your cybersecurity, ask yourself one question: does the cost of a breach outweigh the cost of implementing a robust cybersecurity system? In most cases the answer will be ‘yes’.
Adhere to new industry standards
This year will see the publication of ISO31030, and there’s been a lot of talk about this ‘new’ standard, with some stating the industry has needed this for 30 years. But let’s be clear, its content is not new, merely updated and other standards have preceded it.
It does, however, offer good entry-level guidance for those not familiar with, or new to the world of TRM. Most companies will already have TRM policies in place, which will exceed the guidance provided by ISO31030, but for those who don’t, this is a good starting point. A word of caution, though: if you think this standard can be used as a stick to persuade senior management to increase its TRM budget, think again. Many have tried this approach with previous TRM standards and most failed.
Beware also the snake oil salesmen dressed as ‘consultants’ who will undoubtedly emerge promising to make your organisation compliant to the standard. They can’t. The standard does not require compliance in law, or anywhere else.
Build on your resilience
Whether it’s personal, organisational or operational, what 2020 has taught us is that we need to know more about resilience and how we cope with adversity. The time of resilience planning being a buzz word is over and, in its place, we will need to apply robust and demonstrable techniques to align the strengths of people and organisation with business systems, frameworks and processes.
This is not an area for the amateur practitioner, it is something we need to build into our organisational fabric and include our people as part of the planning and implementation process. Done professionally, resilience planning will go a long way to help protect our businesses, operations and people.
There are clearly other areas we need to include in our TRM systems, as the old threats haven’t gone away, but those mentioned above provide a starting point, as we hopefully see a return to travel in 2021. The road ahead will be bumpy and we will all need to play a part in scanning the horizon in order to stay one step ahead of the risks we face.