· Comment

Protecting and supporting travelling teams after COVID

Business travellers will be among the first visitors to many countries as borders slowly re-open.  They will face a changed landscape, possibly unrecognisable to their previous trips.

Each country has experienced COVID differently and this will influence the way travellers are received at their destination – either as a health threat to a country’s fragile rebuilding or as an opportunity to bring welcome economic stimuli. As well as the pandemic, there are other new risks for travellers due to a rise in protest movements, civil unrest and natural disasters.

Responsibility for business travel is often split across different departments from HR, legal and security, but the need to ensure that travelling teams are safe and protected has never been more unifying.  

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In November 2020, the International Organisation for Standardisation released a draft standard for organisations, called ISO 31030 Risk Management — Managing Travel Risks. This guidance provides a framework for creating a bespoke travel risk management system, with the final version expected in autumn 2021.

As the pause button is slowly lifting on global travel, now is the time to get a robust travel management process in place. Many potential travellers will be feeling hesitant and anxious about heading out beyond their country’s borders.

They face new and complex logistics and may also still be fearful about catching and spreading COVID, particularly with the risk of new variants. They will, therefore, want reassurance that ‘foreseeable risk’ is addressed by watertight steps to safeguard their wellbeing.

They’ll want reassurance that contingency plans are in place if they need to get home in an emergency or end up quarantining. Loved ones will also be putting pressure on employers, wanting to know how their travelling family member is being cared for and supported.

Working towards the ISO standard gives HR managers a helpful framework to provide these answers. If you can prove that you have risk assessed the destination, the planned activity to be conducted, and the traveller’s profile, you will be largely compliant.

For example, when looking at an individual’s risk profile, the HR manager will consider their age, travel experience, pre-existing medical conditions, role in the organisation, and the planned activity to be carried out on the trip.

To summarise, a best practice model is:

  1. Educate – are you providing comprehensive background information and intelligence for each place the traveller is going to?
  2. Locate – are you able to locate travelling staff at any point in their trip?
  3. Communicate – can you contact employees at every stage of their travel to communicate any changes or important updates? It is also essential to understand and meet local health and safety legislation and understand the jurisdiction you are operating in.

Meeting ISO 31030’s standards will ensure your employees are happy to return to travel as they can see the organisation is taking all necessary steps to mitigate risk.

This strategy is also crucial for expats and their families as the cost of failed assignments can be huge. To become compliant, organisations will need to meet roughly 10-12 principles, and these will need to be audited by an approved third party.

Business travel remains an essential part of many organisations’ operations. For example, it is not possible to check quality control or supply chain issues using video conferencing.

However, not least because of the pandemic, employees now expect high standards for assessing risk in travel. Proving you have a travel risk management programme in place provides reassurance to travellers that they can feel confident and safe in their organisation’s travel plans.

For HR managers, a robust travel risk management policy is also an essential tool for talent management to ensure you are attracting and retaining the best employees.


Frank Harrison, regional security director for the UK and North America regions, World Travel Protection