COVID-19 safety & traveler tracking: The new world of business travel

As we approach the end of a difficult year, businesses are taking stock of everything that’s happened as a result of COVID-19 and are looking to set their course for 2021 — including asking the question of how to facilitate essential travel for business in the safest possible way.

It’s clear that the virus will not disappear overnight, but with gradual and promising progress for initiatives such as airport testing and travel corridors, many companies are looking at ways to work practically with the reality that the virus will be with us for some time. Although employee safety and confidence has always been a priority, organizations must assess how to mitigate the risks of business travel in the ‘new normal’.




Of course, business travel will continue to look very different as the ability to go to different countries keeps changing. Borders may open and close with little notice, travel requirements and quarantine can be different from one day to the next, and coronavirus cases can spike without warning.

Imagine a staff member travels abroad to a location that suddenly experiences a spike in COVID cases. What support can be provided? What happens if a local lockdown is imposed and the employee cannot return home? Or, what if the employee tests positive for COVID at the airport, cannot fly and needs to find a safe place to isolate — how will they know which hotels have policies and procedures in place to effectively deal with self-isolating guests?

Real-time view

Now, more than ever, businesses need to put traveler wellbeing first. For essential travel in the era of COVID, employees need robust pre-travel screenings and preparations such as COVID-testing; reliable access to 24/7 medical and travel advice on the road; and detailed contingency planning that anticipates the unexpected.

To address the constantly-changing climate and associated challenges, businesses must be able to access up-to-date global intelligence from a single source. Working with an independent travel assistance provider is an important way for companies to get a crystal clear, professional view on the situation in any given location. This will enable them to make data-led decisions based on current information from a trusted expert.

The new value of traveler tracking

Already part of robust travel risk management programs, tracking solutions will be deemed more valuable by travelling employees in the COVID-era to ensure employees receive critical support should an unexpected event or emergency occur.

Through itinerary tracking, an organization has a view of the traveling employee’s scheduled journey routing and dates of travel. Geo-location, through a traveller tracking app, is what enables real-time contact to be made with the employee, to provide them with information and support as required. In an emergency however, the strength of any response depends on itinerary tracking and geo-location working in tandem, enabling businesses to quickly identify staff who may be affected by a breaking situation and enact the right response.

Proactively addressing privacy concern

Anything tracking-related comes with a natural concern for privacy. With geo-location in particular, there can be a false impression that this means 24/7 monitoring of every move that they make, at every hour and every minute of their trip.

In reality, a lot of geo-location tracking platforms can be configured to privately activate in background mode i.e. only in the case of a high risk event occurring in the same geo location of an employee, will the employer/employee be notified of the potential risk simultaneously. In other words, employees are supported at all times, without needing to worry that their boss is checking up on them at all hours and outside of work.

Another concern may be around sharing of personal medical information, as part of individual-based risk assessments. This is where external providers can help organizations to comprehend and manage the risk presented by any travelling employee, without being party to the specific details and thereby violating workplace and medical privacy laws.

Employee buy-in for a safer way ahead

Traditionally, there have been challenges around employee buy-in and adherence to corporate travel policy and in-channel bookings. Today however, employees are well aware that the world of travel isn’t what it used to be and personal health and wellbeing is in more focus than ever before.

As a result, organizations worldwide have enacted strict measures to safeguard staff wellbeing, and employees are well-attuned to the seriousness with which their companies are reacting.

The natural progression of this should be that travelling employees see the true value of travel risk management programmes and tools such as itinerary tracking and geo-location, and businesses can do their part by clearly communicating both obligations and advantages of corporate travel policy adherence.

These include making clear the benefits of geo-location to ensure rapid and effective assistance or reminding workers that in-channel booking provides access to a safer travel experience in general, as well as extras like the comfort and safety of an airport lounge.

A robust travel risk management program actively involves employees, so they understand the support mechanisms in place and the benefits they bring, as well as proactively addressing potential concerns such as privacy in the new world of business travel.




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