Travel Safety Alerts Current, accurate and relevant or just more crap to read? There’s no argument that organisations have a duty of care to look after their employees during international business travel. Many organisations facilitate this through travel alert services provided by government or commercial information providers. Although this may appear to be a good way to support international travellers and help keep them safe, when you stop to look at the information you may find that it adds little value to the safety and productivity of your people.
A Typical Alert Example
Here’s an example of a travel safety alert from a well-known commercial information provider that charges sizeable subscription fees. The report was released the day after an incident occurred and was contained within a 26 page document listing events that had occurred the day before around the world.
Armed gunmen entered the Sabino Gordo Bar in Monterrey at around 10pm on 8 July 2011 and opened fire on patrons and staff resulting in at least 25 people dead and 5 others injured. The gunmen fled the bar and have disappeared. The bar is located at Julian Villagran 802, near the intersection of Julian Villagran and Carlos Salazar streets.
It is likely the incident is related to a feud between rival trans-national criminal organizations fighting for control – the Zeta’s and Gulf Cartel are major groups in the region. In the past, Monterrey was considered one of the safest cities in Mexico, but due to rising drug-related violence it is now rated one of the most violent as gangs use Monterrey’s strategic location in northern Mexico as a hub to transport guns, drugs, people, and money between Mexico and the United States.
End of report.
This report is useless information that won’t make any person safer. It is essentially a history lesson about an event that occurred in the past, with some irrelevant commentary on what triggered the event. The only way a travelling employee could benefit from this report is if they read between the lines and determined that they shouldn’t go to bars where goons with guns could create a nasty situation. The focus of this information is what and why the incident occurred and not what a traveller can do about it. What’s more, it may generate fear and uncertainty, causing the traveller to limit their activity and reduce the productivity of their trip.
A Smarter Approach
By way of contrast, a smarter (and simpler) approach would be to have a company travel policy that restricts employees from visiting the type of venues where gunfights might happen. This approach significantly reduces the likelihood of employees being killed or injured in these circumstances. Any information provided to a travelling employee must be current, accurate and relevant. In many cases travel alerts meet the criteria of current and (somewhat) accurate, but they lack relevance. Relevance means that the information is specific and applicable to a traveller’s situation. The information can be delivered by SMS, email or other messaging service immediately after the event and as the incident unfolds. The information tells the employee what they must do as a result of the incident occurring. ‘An incident has occurred at the intersection of Julian Villagran and Carlos Salazar streets in Monterey, you are to return to and remain at your hotel until further notice’. This update gives the traveller information that is specific to their situation and doesn’t require them to read between the lines or make poor decisions about what they should do. By being smarter with travel safety information, organisations can better meet their duty of care obligations and be certain that business travel is producing the intended outcomes without undue risk to the travelling employees.