Skip to main content


Travel Risk Management: Threats to Business Travelers on the Rise

Last week, we co-hosted a webinar with our partner, International SOS. One of the major topics covered is travel risk management and the increase in risks to business travelers. As these employees continue to be at risk, it is critical that organizations understand that they have a duty of care to protect business travelers domestically and abroad.

Rise in Risk to Travelers

International SOS presented findings from a recent survey of people responsible for travel and risk management:
  • 4 percent of respondents think travel risks will decrease in 2017
  • 72 percent say travel risks have increased over the past year
  • 57 percent expected travel risks to increases in 2017
  • 80 percent say their business has modified itineraries due to health or travel security concerns
As threats continue to increase, and more employees travel for business, travel risk management should be a major focus for organizations of all sizes. These plans should be shared with all traveling employees so they know they will be taken care of when traveling domestically or abroad for work. Learn more by watching the full webinar. You can also download the slides. If you’d like to follow along while watching the webinar, please read the recording below: Annie: My name is Annie Asrari, and I’m responsible from the product management side for several of our products, the main one being the safety connection solution. And I work on our International SOS integration, very closely with the International SOS team. Now let me introduce our speakers. First, we have Dr. William Hauptman, Medical Director Assistance for America for International [00:00:30] SOS. Dr. Hauptman is responsible for providing medical assistance and coordination of medical care for patients traveling and living abroad. He also provides general oversight and case management direction to medical team members in the assistance center. Next, we have Zach Falk, Regional Security Manager for Americas for International SOS. Zach is responsible for enhancing client’s understanding [00:01:00] and utilization of travel security membership services. Zach assists clients with the development of fully-integrated travel security risk management programs and provides guidance on crisis planning and execution of security evacuations. He also supports clients with the development of travel security policies and travel security awareness training programs. Finally, we have Arley Hanna. She is the Regional Technology Specialist [00:01:30] for International SOS. Arley also works very closely with the everbridge folks on the integration. Now, before I pass the presentation over to our speakers, I just want to take a quick look at the agenda. International SOS [inaudible 00:01:47] is a global market research firm. Following a recent study that was conducted in late 2016 by International SOS, our speakers will look at the perception [00:02:00] of risk and importance of expecting the unexpected. Our speakers will then take a look at your integrated solutions in action, as they discuss real-life examples that organizations like yours need to be prepared for, and how an integrated solution can ensure your mobile workers are safe and secure as they travel and live abroad. Finally, we will wrap up and answer any questions that [00:02:30] might come up here in the session. And, with that, I would like to pass it over to Zach. Zach: Thanks very much, Annie, and for everyone’s who’s joined today on the line. First, we thought is would be helpful to set the stage a little bit regarding the evolution of travel risk and our offerings here at International SOS. We’ve made it our goal to really transform the way we do business to align with the changing world around us. So you can see from this chronological slide here that we began [00:03:00] as an evacuation company 30 years ago. And that’s really where our clients were first using us, more as a safety net, more to protect their business travelers who might get ill while they’re traveling abroad on business, or get into a car accident, really the worst of the worst scenarios from a response capability standpoint. But you can see the evolution of that over time and how, through innovation, we’ve really become a fully-integrated travel risk management service provider today. [00:03:30] I think a key piece on this timeline probably is in that 2001 space, when we think about events like September 11th, for example, being a key event that made organizations really realize they need to know also where their personnel are, and be able to communicate to their mobile work force and provide support to them in light of an incident. It’s been an important progression to where we are today that’s led businesses as well to invest in a more comprehensive program that we offer, not just performing evacuations, [00:04:00] but also helping organizations to assess their risk proactively using that travel data, preparing their travelers accordingly in order to prevent those incidents, and then also at least manage the impact of those incidents that might be unexpected or unavoidable. The study, and Annie actually referenced it earlier in the call, is we’re gonna provide some data to just help us set the scene a little bit. And this comes from an Ipsos MORI study that surveyed [00:04:30] about 1,200 organizations with global operations regarding travel risk. I think it’s an interesting fact there that only 4% of respondents in that large survey believe that travel risks will decrease in 2017. I don’t think it’s an altogether unsurprising stat, but it is a telling one, and at a somewhat shockingly low rate. I think it shows that there may be some debate whether risk is indeed increasing, or just taking new shapes and forms. [00:05:00] But hardly anyone is debating that the world is not becoming safer for travelers. I think we see that this perception is not just among the corporate risk stakeholders who’ve responded in this survey, but in our everyday lives. In the information and social media age, travelers are more aware than ever the potential threats from reading the news, or being briefed on travel regulations. And so I think it’s beginning to influence whether they even go on vacation to a tropical location, where there might be Zika virus, [00:05:30] or going to a country where there’s been a terrorist attack. So it’s certainly top of mind for employees and for managers. So let’s take a look at some other really interesting data from this survey. And I point everyone to the top left of this slide at first, to focus in on the 72% of respondents worldwide that say that travel risks have increased over the past 12 months. Again, you can get into the nitty-gritty of whether that’s a true increase [00:06:00] or not, but certainly the perception is there among travel risk stakeholders, that they need to be doing more, that their travelers that are heading out along are increasingly finding a complex global world to navigate when they’re on business travel. I think it’s this perception that’s really driving travel risk and conversations around duty of care upped the priority list for businesses that operate internationally. Second, I want to point out that middle graphic that’s really taking a [00:06:30] little bit more of a regional understanding of what are folks’ perception of risks in different regions. First thing that called out to mind for me is that 50% number. You see among all the different regions, the highest results come from Europe and those based there, with half of them saying that travel risk has increased in their region. And I think that’s from seeing a number of events over the last 12 or 24 months in Paris, in Brussels, in Nice, more recently in St. Petersburg and Stockholm. It [00:07:00] certainly has people on edge a little bit about planning for these locations at well. And I think, certainly in the more recent weeks, if we took this survey again today, I would’ve bet that 28% number in East Asia and Pacific has probably been driven up recently, based on developments, for example, in the Korean peninsula. So, how do I translate that? One of the things I take away from that is that I think we’re starting to debunk the myths a lot that we hear previously around, [00:07:30] from clients that say, “Hey, we typically travel to low-risk areas. Most of our operations or travelers go to benign environments, first-world countries in East Asia or Western Europe.” But what we’re seeing is that perception is certainly changing, and organizations are planning for those locations as much as their high-risk locations as well. I think, finally, on this data and interpreting it, I would say look at that 80% number on the right side as well. And this is 80% of respondents saying that [00:08:00] businesses have modified itineraries due to the concern they have. That’s a statistic that really indicates that clients are translating these perceptions into actions. A good chunk of those 80% might be canceling trips. So those might be missed-out business opportunities, where companies have canceled trips to areas based on a perceived risk. So it’s important to assess how are companies gauging that, and are they doing so in a competent and systemic fashion? I think a chunk of that is also the opposite. It might [00:08:30] be enabling travel. It might be bolstering preparation for travelers, and changing itineraries to make sure that they’re maybe taking flights instead of taking cars in areas where road safety might be of more concern. It’s key for organizations to have the programs in place to proactively make these calls on trips in a scalable fashion. I think organizations also take advantage of travel risk programs to prepare for the unexpected, and having an integrated solution that really helps them respond to the things that can’t be predicted, the outbreak in disease, [00:09:00] or medical incidents, or medical accidents that take place while people are abroad. Some more interesting data that, despite the perception of this increased risk that we were talking about, the volume of business travel continues to increase. So that’s an interesting combination. Even a recent Ernst & Young report indicated that global business travel volume is expected to increase on average by 5% annually for the next three years. And [00:09:30] I think, through our own surveying, we’re seeing that as well, that a lot of organizations are saying that part of why they’re increasing this investment in their travel risk programs is because they expect their global footprint to expand, they expect business travel to increase, despite the perceptions of an increasingly risky world. So organizations are really looking to stay ahead of the curve now. You see in 2016 that nearly half of those polled said they’ve increased investment in risk mitigation. And around the same [00:10:00] percent expect that investment to continue this year. I think more and more, in the last couple of years, I’ve been sitting across the table from risk management stakeholders and senior management at organizations I support, who say that they need to be doing more. And that’s not just the small organizations that are aware of their gaps, but even those with a breadth of in-house resources, programs in place. They’re always looking to improve there. And they’re investing their challenges in a number of ways. When we talk about investment in travel risk mitigation, [00:10:30] that could mean everything from ramping up communications to travelers on programs that are in place. It might mean further investing in training programs to prepare travelers, tracking tools to understand where travelers are. And I’ve been working with a number of risk and security managers who’ve really been mandated to analyze their gaps, and assess them, and outfit further travel risk policies and compliance measures to those policies within their organization. So as we look back at many different types [00:11:00] of global events that we’ve seen recently, from natural disasters to earthquakes to outbreaks like Ebola and Zika, we talk about an integrated solution. And we’ll talk a little bit more in detail about what that means shortly. But the idea is being that this kind of solution is helping organizations meet your duty of care obligations, covering the worst case scenarios like the ones we see here, which can be very challenging for organizations to manage, as well as the day-to-day. There’s a significant business [00:11:30] advantage here as well, to have an integrated program, a real return on investment for those with an integrated solution. Just to give you some examples of what I mean by that, a comprehensive program which we’ll outline in the coming time following these slides, a couple of things we see and do, we see it reduce the chance of trips or assignments being disrupted or cut short, therefore reducing costs. A failed ex-pat assignment for an organization or a failed business trip based on an incident that could’ve [00:12:00] been prevented is quite costs to organizations. Reducing additional costs of care and evacuation due to emergency as well. I know Dr. Hauptman would back me up as well, that early action and the right measures in place to assist travelers early on in a medical incident can often prevent evacuation, which are more costly events. These kind of programs help to maintain better business continuity, and they also reduce the risk of prosecution under occupational health and safety legislation. [00:12:30] So, with that, now that we’ve talked a bit in general about a solution and the programs, it’d be helpful we thought to share a couple of real case scenarios to illustrate how these programs work. So what we thought we would do is first start with this as an example, which was the terrorist attack that impacted Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, this was an attack perpetrated by multiple suicide bombers and shooters in June of 2016. [00:13:00] You can see the death toll that resulted, and the injury toll that resulted from these events. And I think, even beyond that, just that thousands and thousands of travelers were affected. Speaking to that a bit, this was Istanbul’s main international airport. To set the scene, Turkey is not only a key business location for many multi-national organizations, but it’s a transit hub connecting Europe with the Middle East and with Asia as well. So part of the challenge here is where, even for organizations that maybe didn’t have a footprint or operations [00:13:30] in Turkey, had people that might’ve been on their way to that airport, or traveling through that airport at the time. And the same is true for other events that we’ve seen in places like Brussels. So when reports of an attack hit social media around 10 o’clock local time in Turkey on that day, you can imagine that managers quickly needed to provide reassurance and assistance to their folks on the ground in Turkey. And they also needed to know who was heading into harm’s way. So, like I said, who might be on [00:14:00] a plane en route to that airport at the time that might get diverted to another location that they’re not familiar with? How are they going to communicate and assist them in an unfamiliar environment? They might need to know who might be scheduled to travel there in the coming days as well. So these are all things that made this kind of scenario a bit challenging. We thought it would be helpful just to give you an idea of what International SOS is doing as this kind of crisis unfolds. You see that the first [00:14:30] reports of an attack taking place just after 10 o’clock local time. As soon as that incident happened, our analysts … International SOS has a team of analysts that are locally in a region in the Middle East that are picking up the reports of this incident on social media. So they begin to see, use social media aggregation tools to pick up this chatter. And we understand that it’s imperative that we get information out to our travel risk stakeholders, as well as individuals on the ground very quickly. [00:15:00] You can see that, within 13 minutes, we’ve published one of what we call “special advisories,” advising individuals that this attack was taking place. But one of the things that’s important here is that we need to verify the incident. So, while we quickly did that within less than 15 minutes, that’s not at the compromise of ensuring that that information is accurate. What we do there is that’s where we take advantage of our local experts in the region, who speak the local languages, who can monitor local media who were first on the scene as well in Turkey, who could [00:15:30] speak with our contacts and our partners on the ground to be able to verify the incident, because what we want to do is not only provide information in an expedient manner, we want to make sure it’s valuable and accurate information, as opposed to just spreading rumors, so to speak. And that’s a key piece of the puzzle here from an intelligence perspective. Once we send that alert out, that’s when can expect to have people want to do something with that information, right? So we’re gonna want to see that, we’re gonna know that people are going to be calling in and asking for further [00:16:00] information, asking for advice as what should I be doing, should I be staying in my hotel, should I be going to a different airport, should I be leaving the country? And you see that those first requests start to come in just 20 minutes after the event. We begin to field those calls on our medical and security platform. I think another key piece of our program is we’ve been doing this for decades, and we can immediately detect that there’s a scale here for potential crisis. We know there’s going to be a spike in calls, and we need to also maintain [00:16:30] our business as usual to our clients who are assisting elsewhere as well. So that’s when we activate our crisis management team, and we establish a reinforce team in our assistance center in the Middle East, in the region, to provide dedicated resources to support these requests. Over the course of the first 36 hours after this incident began taking place, we received nearly 200 such requests. So that’s where we have that dedicated team of operations managers, security specialists, and medical personnel, [00:17:00] all with the ability to speak the local language, to be calling and arranging for assistance to these individuals, all of those kind of things coming together under one roof to support our clients. And with that, I’d actually toss it to Dr. Hauptman. Maybe, as we assemble this crisis team, Dr. Hauptman, you can comment a little bit about what is the medical team thinking regarding those risks that play here, in addition to security. Dr. Hauptman: Sure, Zach. Well, thank you very much, and it’s a pleasure for me to be participating in today’s webinar. [00:17:30] The medical team at International SOS certainly works collaboratively with the security team and operations teams, as well as with a client liaison team that we have, so that we have somebody representing our clients to determine how we will communicate as we get more information. We’ve seen at International SOS that all security events inevitably include a medical component. There can be injured parties [00:18:00] who need emergency care. The medical team will work closely with the local health resources to make sure that everyone gets the care they need. And we’ll also monitor this care until the member is well enough to be discharged. Our local office will liaise with the hospitals on-site to know exactly where are is available, given the huge increase in medical needs after the crisis. We will also send a medical International SOS [00:18:30] representative to be on-site and to visit the hospitals and coordinate care. There will also, in addition to injured parties, there will be instances of unexpectedly delayed travel, and members perhaps running out of important medications that they need. We will assist in these cases as well by identifying local physicians who can see these members and provide additional refills of the required medications. During an event like this, we [00:19:00] receive many medical phone calls. Some calls originated for this event from the headquarters of our clients. We also got many calls from the ground, either to our office in Philadelphia or to our European offices, if members were using the app downloaded on their phone. Some of these calls were what we would call “code blue” calls for medical emergencies. Code blue calls have special significance and are handled in a particular [00:19:30] fashion. They’re identified by the coordinating employee here who takes the first call and notes the types of words that are used in the request for assistance. By protocol, the coordinator answering the call, whether it’s in London, or Philadelphia, or anyplace, immediately escalates this call to the medical team on duty once they hear these trigger words. The medical team provides telephone advice to the caller in an [00:20:00] effort to stabilize the situation, while simultaneously, the operations team is taking steps to mobilize resources on-site. Additionally, as you can imagine, these sorts of events typically have a significant psychological impact, not just on the injured, but also on anybody who may have witnessed this event. In this instance, we were able to provide telephonic psychological support to those affected, including with post-traumatic stress [00:20:30] disorder symptoms. We were also able to deploy on-site, in Turkey, psychologists to address, for example, a particular group who were holed up in their airport hotel room, clearly in shock and unable to leave the hotel. With that, I’ll hand the floor over to Arley to review this event from the manager’s perspective and the utilization of our tools, including Travel Tracker. Arley: Great. Thank you, Dr. Hauptman. And, again, pleasure to [00:21:00] be participating in this webinar today. So the way in which traveler tracking really works in all of this is that, before this event even occurs, International SOS works with organizations that we partner with and connect with their travel management companies, and also employee forwarding itinerary functionality, so that we are receiving travel and trip details into our system as soon as travelers are booking them. And then, as soon as a traveler’s trip is booked and received into our system, we’re pushing them a pre-trip [00:21:30] advisory email to better prepare them and inform them about the medical and security risk environment they’re traveling into. During an event such as this in the airport attack, International SOS now has those itineraries in our system, and we’re able to quickly push travelers alerts about new threats or an incident in their location, both via email and through a push in the International SOS app, if the traveler has that on their phone, so that they’re really understanding what’s going on around them. And, more importantly, what they should be doing to maintain their safety and wellness in the [00:22:00] event of this scenario. At the same time, managers are then receiving alerts as well, letting them know if they have some travelers in that affected area. So they’re logging into the Travel Tracker tool, zooming into the map to pinpoint those travelers, and then using a built-in messaging system, which is now powered by everbridge’s messaging tool, to really be able to reach out to those travelers and determine who is affected and who might need help. It’s also crucial to have redundancy in communication during emergencies such as this [00:22:30] because, depending on the event, one or multiple lines of communication could be down to where emails or calls might not go through, text messages can go through. Or vice versa. So, again, within the Travel Tracker, they have multiple channels of communication available to reach out to their travels: email, text, text to speech, push notifications through that app. And, additionally, managers can flex send two-way messages asking their travelers to actually respond back and let them know their status, where they are on the group, if they need some help, etc. [00:23:00] Or, travelers can check into their location using the International SOS app, and actually show their managers where they are on the ground. So really, this way managers can then prioritize who really needs assistance, and they can focus their crisis response efforts accordingly. Another component of the global risk management program that we provide to our clients is an online e-learning course and course, essentially. These courses walk through [00:23:30] with the traveler, preparation on both the medical and security side for their trip, really talking through general safety and wellness tips while they’re traveling. For example, and relevant during the Ataturk airport attack scenario, is the section, for example, on this airport behavior. Unfortunately, airports and other transportation stations are often targeted by criminals or terrorists due to the large concentration of travelers. So the course will talk through increasing layers of protection, keeping a low profile, [00:24:00] how and where to store valuables, listening to safety announcements, and really to ensure safety and awareness while moving through transportation hubs. Another major component of the e-learning courses are talking through what to do when there is a medical and/or security event in the location where the traveler is. For example, when violence occurs, or terrorist attacks occur, it talks through how travelers can apply the principles of personal security when they’re traveling to a city where there is a greater threat for [00:24:30] these types of events. For instance, if there’s gunfire, and sometimes it’s difficult to know which direction it’s coming from, so travelers really pay attention to where people are moving away from to better understand where the threat is, and then looking for cover, finding cover, and moving quickly and in short bursts between cover to prevent becoming a target themselves. So, again, just for a few examples of what those course will talk through. So I talked previously about the Travel Tracker, and how it works to [00:25:00] prepare travelers, both beforehand before their trips, but pushing them information as soon as they book, keeping them informed throughout the trip through those alerts, and then also keeping managers informed through manager-specific alerts and allowing them to have a better understanding of their potential exposure of their travelers and ex-patriots in an affected location. So here’s just a screenshot of the Travel Tracker, to give a better idea of what managers will have access to, as far as an interactive map, to run searches for travelers. As Zach mentioned, sometimes [inaudible 00:25:30] to [00:25:30] run scenarios, it’s important to not only know who your current travelers are there, but those who might be scheduled to arrive in the next day or the next few days, in case there is a scenario such as this, where the airport was then closed for a couple of days. So it would’ve been necessary to also reach out to those future travelers, and give them some messaging and some directions around travel to that particular location. And, again, as I mentioned earlier, everbridge is now a partner of ours. And within the Travel Tracker tool, everbridge is powering [00:26:00] the communication module, which really gives managers the ability to quickly reach out to travelers using multi-model functionality, in email and text, text to speech, push notifications, and allowing travelers to respond quickly back. Now I’ll hand it back over to Dr. Hauptman to talk through another case scenario. Dr. Hauptman: Thank you, Arley. Well, it’s very interesting to hear you present our different modes of technology. And, from a medical perspective, it’s gratifying, because we can certainly [00:26:30] leverage all of the technology that you discussed to the benefit of our patients. Now, I’d like to discuss a case we had recently that nicely demonstrates how the different components of the International SOS global risk management program are used together synergistically to obtain the best possible outcome. The case I will discuss easily qualifies as a code blue. In other words, there were trigger words that were heard [00:27:00] by the coordinator who answered the phone when the call came in. Previously discussed a code blue call, and the associated protocol that goes along with it. So we understand that, upon hearing these trigger words, the coordinator immediately expedited this call and escalated it to the medical team. Although the request for assistance in this case was somewhat vague, as you will see, while the medical team was calming the first caller, the operations [00:27:30] team was able to leverage some of the technical tools that Arley has discussed to locate the patient in this case. Now I’d like to walk through the steps taken to locate this patient and get him the critical care he needed. This slide currently visible outlines the specifics of the case. The first call came in at 8 a.m. from a family member who had received a suicide note by text from a member who was traveling in Europe. [00:28:00] That means, as you can imagine, that there was someone sitting at home who had a loved one who was traveling somewhere in Europe. That’s all they knew. There was a history of depression, and the message said nothing more than, “I’ve had enough. I’m going to end my life.” With that information, we then got activated by the family member who, of course, was very upset and concerned, but did not have a lot of information to help resolve this emergency. That was absolutely a code blue. [00:28:30] We were immediately able to put together a team, including and using our collaborative skill sets of operations, medical, and security. Within 10 minutes of the call, Travel Tracker was able to pull the details of where the member was located, simply by having the name and company of the member. Attempts to try calling the member directly were made, but his phone was off. Two [00:29:00] minutes later, International SOS called the hotel where the member was located and spoke with the receptionist. After attempts by the receptionist to try and contact the member, we advised the receptionist to go to his room, while keeping us on the phone with her the whole time. After knocking, and still receiving no response, we advised her to enter the room, where she found the member unconscious in the bathtub, after overdosing on various substances and alcohol [00:29:30] that were found scattered around the room. The receptionist called emergency services and stayed with the member. International SOS remained on the phone the entire time with the receptionist to provide constant guidance. Within approximately 15 minutes, local EMS arrived. Fortunately, this individual was still breathing. The EMS resuscitated him, put him in the ambulance, and took him to the nearest hospital, where he was further stabilized. Once on [00:30:00] route, International SOS reached out to the client to inform them that a situation had occurred, and then proceeded to reach out to the family and let them know that their loved one was okay. We let the client and the family know that we had taken him to a vetted facility that we had asked the ground ambulance to take him to. We were able to communicate with that facility, because it’s within our own database of providers within that region of Europe, and we work with that facility frequently [00:30:30] to take care of our members. It’s amazing to think that this all happened in well under an hour from the time we received the call. In that short period, we were able to leverage operational, medical, and security teams, both in Philadelphia and abroad, where the first call came in, and in Eur

Request a Demo