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Tuesday, 12 March, 2019, 13 : 06 PM [IST]

Safeguarding Female Business Travellers

Andy Watson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China, SAP Concur
The strongest growth in travel from India in recent years has been from business travellers, and this led to a huge increase in business travel expenditures and budgets. With the growing trend of Indian women travelling on work, companies need to equip them with proper information and tools for a safe and secure journey.

In case of weather-related natural disasters, travellers end up cancelling or rebooking their travel, which ultimately impacts their business plans. While natural disasters pose a serious, high-level safety threat to all travellers, we are learning that women, in particular, can face other serious safety threats like assault, theft, sexual harassment, or culturally threatening situations while on the road for business. Educating ourselves about our companies’ duty of care policies is proving more important than ever. Duty of care is an organisation’s moral and legal obligation to take serious responsibility for the safety of its travelling employees and a travel risk management program is the response to that obligation—in the form of actionable policy.

Many women are skeptical to travel for business due to safety concerns. According to a research done by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), it was reported that 83% of women have encountered one or more safety concerns while travelling for work in the past year. A majority of female business travellers about 63%, are concerned about safety always or frequently while travelling and concerns over safety have been escalating. The survey found that 45% of female travellers feel less safe or much less safe about travelling than they did five years ago. Women also find information on staying safe on the road hard to come by, 84% said that their employers either did not provide travel safety tips/resources or that they were not aware of any such tools.

While research showed that travel managers may offer safety and security resources through third-parties, such as 24-hour emergency hotlines, only 44% said their companies book women into rooms with additional safety features like double locks and 24-hour security. Three out of five said they “rarely” or “never” offer chauffeured transportation services at travel destinations, even though taxi rides and airport transfers were noted as particularly hostile environments for women.

Companies can take proactive steps to bolster their duty of care obligations for female travellers in specific ways:
  • Prepare your female employees in advance: Do they understand the legal, cultural, or even religious restrictions they may face at their destination?
  • Provide local destination guidance information: What are the lodging, meeting, and transportation safety precautions in place, and how can they get help when they need it?
  • Offer emergency travel service resources: Travellers should be provided with technology assistance in the form of applications and alerts
  • Share critical behavioural safety tips: What not to wear in certain countries, how to be situationally alert to surroundings and others at all times, and tips for protecting their information
Customise your device for safety
Ahead of any business trip, initiating safety capabilities and protection on the mobile phone is a smart thing to do. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Sign up for alerts and connect to an embassy: For international travel, know the location of the closest embassy or consulate and check the option to enrol your trip so the embassy can send you mobile alerts in the event of an emergency
  • Consider installing Google Translate or Trip Lingo: Both are voice translating applications that can help you in emergencies when language barriers pose a problem. You can learn words like ‘Help’, ‘Emergency’, and ‘No’ in 103 languages
  • Research TripWhistle: You can dial local emergency police, fire and ambulance phone numbers anywhere in the world with a single touch, immediately providing critical information to emergency responders
As a frequent traveller, one should constantly educate themselves. It is actually not possible for companies to completely eliminate risk while on the road because the world is unpredictable. In the end, it may not matter if an individual is covered by the most comprehensive travel risk management program out there. What matters is that one should know how to immediately respond if a security incident or threat jeopardises the safety and well-being of an individual.

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