Corporate Traveller boss shares 7 safety protocols needed for COVID-safe business travel

With restrictions beginning to lift, businesses are no doubt starting to plan their travel for the year, however, we’re not out of the woods just yet.

As new variants emerge, travel will remain complex. But that doesn’t mean it’s off the table. 

We chatted with business travel expert Tom Walley to find out what companies need to consider before jetting off. 

Walley is the general manager at Corporate Traveller, Australia’s biggest travel management company for SMEs and a division of Flight Centre Travel Group. He said that despite promising vaccination rates, the threat of the pandemic remains, and the new Omicron variant has thrust businesses into a world of uncertainty.

“Businesses need to continue to be on high alert and ensure their duty of care to their travelling employees is a top priority.”

Walley’s comments come amid the recent release of the international ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management standard.

“As businesses continue to face a number of pandemic-related challenges, the availability of such a standard will help leaders implement the procedures and actions needed to travel safely,” Walley said. 

“Organisations would be wise to review the new standard, as it provides a foundation for organisations of all sizes to reduce potential health, safety and security risks during every step of the travel journey.”

Below, Walley shares his seven must-have safety protocols businesses should implement, which he recommends to his own business customers and are also reflected in the new ISO standard.

Establish pre-travel authorisations Walley said organisations would be wise to establish pre-approvals and booking procedures to provide better visibility over travel.

This can include developing a mandatory booking process that clearly outlines the booking channels that can be used for all forms of travel, transport, and accommodation, as well as the senior leaders, tasked with approving travel. It would also stipulate the approval process required to book travel outside official channels.

Conduct a travel risk assessment prior to planning and booking travel TMCs can conduct such assessments on a company’s behalf or businesses can perform them independently.

“Business would first assess potential risks and likelihood of them occurring. These could range from personnel risk, including injury or illness, legal risk, financial risk, and data risk, including breaches in data and confidentiality,” Walley said.

To analyse such risks, organisations can seek expert advice or source information from local government agencies and embassies, along with location-specific crime statistics.

Assess and approve accommodation and transportation based on health, safety, and security risks Walley said organisations need to consider potential health, safety and security risks when determining approved accommodation for travellers.

Organisations can consider a policy regarding airlines to use, assessing factors such as safety record and hygiene measures. For ground transportation, organisations can also stipulate pre-arranged transport options, such as authorised public taxis employees can use.

Source relevant, reliable, and up-to-date information and advice for travelling employees It should be location-specific and highlight the medical and security levels of risk.

“Organisations that travel regularly can also consider onboarding a travel management company, which are equipped with innovative technology and expert teams that can source and provide information to businesses and travellers in real-time,” Walley said.

“Travel management companies can also change itineraries before and during travel based on changing circumstances and increased risk to ensure travellers remain safe.”

Perform pre-and-post-travel checks on all travelling employees Pre-travel checks can assess whether an employee is medically fit to travel, whether that be COVID-related or general health.

Checks should consider pre-existing health conditions and ensure procedures such as testing, vaccinations and quarantine are adhered to prior to travel, particularly if an employee is travelling to a location with a high rate of COVID cases.

To minimise risks, organisations can also advise employees to travel with appropriate first-aid equipment and medicines or equip travellers with a medical kit.

Track travellers for peace of mind The standard outlines three methods organisations can consider to track travellers: itinerary based, expenses based, or technology-based.

However, Walley warns tracking travellers should only be used to ensure their safety and give businesses peace of mind, particularly when travelling to a high-risk location.

Itinerary-based tracking relates to the collation of booking information, from transportation to accommodation, to identify where travellers will be, and when, throughout their journey.

This method keeps organisations informed and allows travellers to check in with managers at agreed points in the journey for added peace of mind, while still maintaining privacy.

Technology-based tracking involves using a device or specific app on the employee’s phone which can monitor and record movements, allowing organisations to view their precise location.

Evaluate the travel program through employee surveys Businesses can conduct employee surveys to identify any gaps and areas of improvement needed in their travel program.

The surveys assess all areas of the travel program, including the support and information provided before and during travel, the booking process, and the overall travel experience.

“The survey could ask for specific feedback, particularly regarding health and safety, to ensure travel remains seamless and safe for all employees,” Walley said.

Featured image caption: iStock/valentinrussanov