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 equipped it is to actually help prevent a crisis from happening in the first place. Follow our three-step approach to TRM and know that you’re one step closer to a more effective traveler protection strategy.

1. Prevention & Planning

Natural disasters, medical emergencies, political unrest…these types of events are often unexpected (and out of our control!), but taking time to plan for these types of scenarios– before they happen–can make all the difference in helping to facilitate the best outcomes for your travelers. One great emergency planning tactic we recommend to all types of organizations are crisis response exercises (CREs). CREs are designed to elicit constructive and in-depth problem-solving discussions as well as resolve challenges in an informal, stress-free environment–before an emergency strikes. The success of these exercises hinge 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 planning 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 and respond to issues is paramount. 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. Awareness

Recent global events–and what they mean for your travelers and your organization–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 intelligence, 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. Response

When it comes to travel risk management, communication really is king–and at the end of the day, communications can make or break how your organization responds to a crisis. 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 an emergency abroad. 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? Whether someone needs a medical evacuation, help with a missing passport, or security advice for a high-risk location, providing your travelers with access to 24/7 emergency assistance is critical–but won’t serve their purpose if no one even knows they exist.

This three-step approach to travel risk management can help your organization effectively prepare and respond to travel risk. Contact us today to learn how On Call can help you protect your people and your organization with our fully-customizable travel risk management solutions.


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  to learn more.