What is Travel Risk Management?

Travel risk management (TRM) is a comprehensive, consistent and proactive approach to protecting your people and your organization from travel risks. The broader notion of travel risk management and duty of care is not just linked to how well your organization can respond to a crisis—but rather, how well it can actually prevent a crisis from happening in the first place. Follow our three-pronged approach to TRM and know that you’re one step closer to a more effective traveler protection strategy.

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1. Crisis Management 
Natural disasters, medical emergencies, political unrest…anyone who has been involved in managing a crisis will tell you that even the best-laid plans can go astray during a catastrophic event. Crisis management planning is a great way to test your organization’s response procedures before an emergency strikes. Its success hinges upon group participation and consensus, so everyone involved in your organization’s international crisis response should join. Participants—preferably people with decision-making authority—should discuss problems, issues, and procedures in the context of a travel emergency scenario. Objectives should be centered on the training and familiarization of roles, procedures and communication chains to ensure the best emergency response from a duty of care standpoint.

Crisis management preparation is not just a one-hit wonder, but rather, something your organization should revisit with your key stakeholders on a regular basis.  Use the information gathered during your planning sessions to make changes in your organization’s emergency response plans and establish actions and communication plans.  What are your team’s strengths? Which areas need improvement or support? What are the most important lessons learned? The last thing you want is a list of dilemmas with no one to fix them—so getting buy-in from key stakeholders who can actually resolve the issues is critical. This upfront work and collaboration will make the team’s crisis management efforts more efficient when it’s time to react in a real-world situation.

2. Situational Awareness 
Recent global events—and what they mean for Duty of Care—have brought intelligence monitoring and situational awareness back to the forefront for many organizations. The challenge? Situational awareness is a 24/7 job that requires the proper manpower to gather information, vet resources and place incidents into context. Consumer-facing news services may send alerts about risks such as infectious diseases, fires, natural disasters, and political upheavals, but could lack the nuance your crisis response team needs to turn that intelligence into actionable insights. For example: What does the information mean? Which current and future risks could be triggered? How can your team respond to, mitigate and de-escalate the situation? At the same time, some risks may take days, weeks or even months to unfold, and resolution can easily stretch over long periods of time.

Organizations should engage in careful risk assessment prior to sending travelers abroad, whether individuals are assigned to a high-risk region or even locations where risks may not be so apparent. It’s no longer enough to trust your own research alone—local contacts, researchers, networks and on-the-ground reports are necessary assets in today’s ever-changing travel landscape. One thing to always keep in mind is that travel risks are not static; they frequently change depending on season, natural events or political instability. The key is leveraging security reports, risk data and local knowledge to the best of your advantage and being prepared to modify, or at least consider modifying, travel plans accordingly. And of course, don’t be hesitant to reach out to professionals for additional guidance and perspective. That’s just good, prudent planning.

3. Communications 
When it comes to travel risk management, communication really is king—and at the end of the day, communications can make or break the success of your travel program. Refer back to your initial risk assessment in the crisis planning phase and identify the top risks that can be prevented or reduced through educational efforts. Craft your messaging around mitigating health and safety risks and share this information through your organization’s pre-travel orientation initiatives. Help travelers understand the risks involved as well as their duty to take responsibility and act on the guidance and training provided to them.

And last but not least, make sure your travelers know how to tell you they’re safe—and how to reach out for help—during a crisis abroad. Organizations need to issue a continuous drumbeat of communications so travelers know what’s available and when. Do your travelers know who to call if they have an after-hours emergency? Has your organization built in proper staffing patterns to accommodate these potential inquiries? Having emergency plans and third-party resources are great, but won’t serve their purpose if no one even knows they exist.

This three-pronged approach to travel risk management—crisis management, situational awareness and communications—can help any organization effectively and efficiently respond to a travel crisis. And there’s no need to go at it alone. Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your people and your organization with our holistic travel risk management programs.


For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.