In July, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), a trade organization for corporate travel and expense managers, held its annual meeting in Los Angeles, California. Topics that generated the most buzz at the meeting were the huge increase in corporate travel globally and the risks of managing corporate travelers across disparate global destinations.
There were 6,700 travel and expense managers, vendors, suppliers and others in the corporate travel sector in attendance. The GBTA predicts a surge in 2014 corporate travel spending of about 7 percent. This will bring overall global travel spending close to $1.18 trillion. The United States currently accounts for $292.3 billion of this spend - an increase of 3 percent.
John M. Rose, Chief Operating Officer of iJet, a travel risk management company, explained the worries of those in corporate travel:
“I’ve been at this 28 years — military, U.S. government, different response companies — and this is the greatest concentration of threat that I’ve ever seen, not only because of the frequency and severity of these incidents, but also because so many companies and institutions are global now.”
Executives from iJet and from International SOS offered a joint training session for travel and expense managers. The group that was trained shared a collective concern about health and safety policies for international travelers of all experience levels. According to Wendy Stachowiak, Director of Global Travel Partnerships for International SOS, there is a dichotomy between older, experienced travelers and young novice travelers. Stachowiak notes many novice travelers are those “who tend to believe they are invincible.” Seasoned travelers, with many missed connections and varied travel stories under their belts, have likely lost any sense of travel invincibility and understand many aspects of corporate travel are beyond their control. The end of July 2014 was especially troubling to executives responsible for employee travelers. When queried as to specific concerns, the top two answers were the loss of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine and the Ebola virus outbreak.
Danger abounds around the globe that can endanger business travelers. During the conference not only were the aircraft take down and the Ebola virus making the news, there were two plane crashes, suspension of flights to Israel, a United States embassy evacuation in Libya, and riots taking place in the streets of Hong Kong – all potential challenges for traveling employees. A conference session titled “Get Me Out of Here!” highlighted the need around planning for evacuations and for employees traveling internationally to be in daily communication with their company. In fact, some countries impose criminal sanctions against corporate travel managers when a corporate travel office fails to "meet the duty-of-care responsibilities.” Exposure in a civil lawsuit is also possible. This is why employee check-in is important – knowing exact employee locations allows for quick deployment of an evacuation or other emergency plan.
As the global economy expands, so too will corporate travel, and the need for expense management solutions. Finding best practices for supporting and protecting employees on the road, whether it’s through online expense reporting or a daily employee check-in, will continue to remain a priority and a growing need.
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