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Changing Business Travel Preferences: A Shift in Traveller Attitudes and Behaviour

Global assistance provider International SOS has been closely tracking the changing traveller sentiment due to a plethora of issues. Neeraj Balani, Managing Director, International SOS, Indian Subcontinent speaks to Disha Shah Ghosh about the heightened risk for travel, globally, and the need for businesses to invest in robust technology for effective employee travel risk management.

1. What are some of the foreseeable risks for business travellers in the year ahead?
In the post Covid world, besides financial risks, there is a heightened health risk, and the ongoing war and geopolitical situation has only created more uncertainty. There are tensions in the APAC region due to border disputes and bilateral fallout. There is instability due to Covid related financial disruption in our own neighbourhood and African nations. Travellers are not keen to travel as they used to be before.

All the businesses and their travel managers are witnessing heightened need for better travel risk management of employees. Travellers are more reluctant to travel including their perseverance to risk, mental issues, and family reservations, financial and heightened risks.

We have recently come out of Covid, and at an organisation level, Covid related health issues and global inflation is seeping in.

2. How can businesses upgrade their travel risk management policies to be more inclusive to changes?
Some of the recent traveller surveys have pointed out that the aversion in terms of their readiness in moving back to travel. ISO has released the latest 310013 new guide for organisations, which are best practises. One can audit their existing process for their documentations. These best practises provide organisations with business and related risks assessments. It provides with a robust travel policy framework for understanding the business and related risks. It gives guidance on how to have a robust framework which includes procedures and risks.

One of the recent audit of our client showcased lack of consistency, almost 8 departments needed to collaborate on a situation, and this shows the kind of complexity on the business side.

3. Enumerate on some of the factors, global or local, that would impact a resilient Indian traveller’s appetite to travel.
We have to break down travel into two parts; one is the leisure traveller, and one the business side. While travelling with families domestically, the risk is perceived is much lower than visiting a different country. We have been talking to the CXOs, and they assert that the amount of deliberation being done by them today for domestic travel is the same as they do for an international trip. In that sense, businesses are not seeing the situation as any different. Mental well-being is being affected by various factors but sales teams, and operations workforce has to travel. Therefore, organisations are thinking of case management software to monitor cases at a domestic level. This is felt because there is an increased need for call for help, medical assistance in case of emergency, etc., while on a trip.

4. In terms of preventive measures, how can employees themselves protect their response plans?

Today the employee itself is afraid to the extent that he doesn’t want to travel. There are people who are travelling and people who are averse to travelling, but how do you keep the workforce motivated on what they should be doing in case they need any help? These are some of the big questions every organisation is struggling with. The travel managers are supposed to be helping people and similarly employee training education and upgrading of information in terms of what’s happening in real-time which needs investment, and has been identified by organisations.

Training, retraining, communication ability, and proactive coordination need significant IT investment. Organisations’ systems at the back end need support, and apps need to serve as the one-stop shop for travel advisory, and the most important factor to determine risks and as a travel assistance platform.


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