Safety Comes First

19 November 2015
This article originally appeared here.
BBT’s mystery buyer argues that ensuring the safety of travellers should be the number one priority over cost savings

Travel professionals, travel managers and travel procurement are really focused these days on driving down cost and negotiating contracts. They lose track of duty of care and the safety of their people.

Procurement specialists have got to get the best deal. But in my opinion, the safety of our people should be our first concern, before we start negotiating contracts. You cannot set a price on someone’s life when you are asking them to travel around the globe for their organisation.

We need to put plans in place so that when something goes wrong at one of our locations or in some of the hostile locations we have to travel to, we know will be able to extract our people. That is not about cost but how we are engaging with both our internal clients and external clients.

Because we are sending people to clients’ locations and sites, our emergency response plans have to be tied into theirs. Are our clients going to take responsibility for extracting our employees and getting them out of the country if there is a serious incident and evacuation is deemed necessary.

If the client doesn’t do it - and if it’s not a wholly-owned site of ours - we need to make sure our partner International SOS is aware that we have people in these countries, so that we could say to them that we need to charter an  aircraft to get them out,  should the need arise .

I get frustrated when people say our role is just to make sure we save money constantly. It is all very well having a global TMC contract, consolidated hotel programme and negotiated airline deals but it doesn’t end there. As travel professionals, we have also got to work with the business to make sure our employees are safe while travelling on the contracts we are negotiating.

We have a global travel policy, which is linked into our security policy, so that travellers are following both, and the traveller has to do a risk assessment. In some organisations, the manager will do it on the traveller’s behalf but that’s of no use to anyone because the manager is not going to that destination.

Our clients are appreciative that we take the safety of our people extremely seriously. I manage a multi-million pound travel budget. I am here to save money but the safety of my people comes first. I’m going to make sure I look after them first before I negotiate a contract.

People and communication skills are essential and we communicate constantly. I have nothing to hide because I want people who work for this business to know that my team are looking after them. I believe this is the key to a successful travel policy. If we decided not to do this, then it would have a negative impact on our ability to recruit and retain good people.

Comfort is a big part of looking after travellers. For example, the rotational guys choose not to work in their home country and although they do not travel business class, we still look at getting them a day room for a long stopover. We also provide them with meals and wifi vouchers in a local hotel and day facilities including a shower.

Making journeys more comfortable for staff is an additional expense to the company but hopefully they can see we are trying to take care of them when they are spending long periods away from the family. 

I accept there has to be a balance between traveller care and cost. We are still trying to get the best prices for the business and drive cost down, but this will not be done at the expense of our duty of care to our employees. Making sure they can travel as safely as possible will always be my number one priority.