Business World

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Risky business: over half of travellers affected by incidents

Emergency services respond after the recent attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona Photo: AP
Emergency services respond after the recent attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona Photo: AP

Mark Evans

Incidents in Las Vegas, London, Marseille and Barcelona in the recent weeks alone show that the world can be a dangerous place, and in destinations where such events are least expected.

Incredibly, it's been revealed this week that over half - 53pc - of business travellers have reported being near a "major event" while abroad for work. Such events include "flooding, epidemic, riot, earthquake or terrorist attack".

Worse still, 41pc of those affected weren't contacted by their company when an incident arose. Of those who were, just over one in three found the contact unhelpful or mildly useful.

The survey by Innofact was carried out on behalf of employee spend management and business travel giant Concur, and follows surveys and warnings to companies from the US-based Global Business Travel Association on the issue of safety.

"I was absolutely shocked at the data. I know some companies pay lip service to their duty-of -care commitment and rely on travel management companies to perform that duty of care, but it's hard if they haven't booked through that company and they don't know where they are," Chris Baker, managing director of UK Enterprise at Concur, told the Sunday Independent.

With up to 40pc of business travellers not using specialised booking agencies, the onus then is on companies to adequately train and inform workers on what to do in a risk situation, he believes.

And he says terrorist attacks and upheaval in Europe makes this even more important: "Companies have been caught out because this isn't about your workers travelling to Africa or Asia or the Middle East, this could be your non-travellers, just your workers spread across the UK or Ireland."

As with other travel-management companies, the technology is there to warn those abroad and touch base with them when a situation occurs. He recalls his time at Microsoft, where "it took us all day to account for all the employees", with the tech giant buying a messaging solution provided by his present company to speed up that process.

"We have Concur Locate - it tells where am I right now. My travel manager knows I've just got off a flight or in a hotel or, because we've connected to their ecosystem, he knows I just got out of an Uber."

And while he says "we're no risk experts", he uses a specialised third party; "companies like Helix who are constantly checking the risk situation". Other experts in the field include International SOS, which analyse tensions and upcoming events and offer messaging in real time to affected employees. Respondents to the survey pointed towards a lack of confidence in their company to deliver assistance when it's vital, with only 42pc believing it would be able to help in any situation.

In the UK, companies have a responsibility of duty of care, says Baker, but here in Ireland health-and-safety legislation doesn't cover acts of God, such as the Icelandic volcano, or terror events. It does, however, cover injuries sustained in work - even abroad - with such cases investigated, if necessary, by the authorities in those countries, the Health and Safety Authority told this column.

n Bleisure - where corporate travellers remain on to enjoy a city's attractions after their work is done - is on the rise, particularly among younger workers. And a new survey by German-headquartered travel platform Weekengo illustrates where's worth hanging on, whether you're a culture vulture, foodie or nightlife fan. Cities are scored on the basis of factors including museums/galleries, eating out, open spaces, safety for women and attitudes towards LGBT visitors. London tops the poll, only faring poorly on security following recent terror attacks and incidences of street crime. Its eating out and drinking options give it near-perfect scores of just under 99pc each.

Berlin's a close second, scoring most highly for theatres and cinemas, hotels and city walkability. The German capital is followed by Vienna, Hamburg, Paris, Amsterdam and New York.

Of the major cities where Irish companies and government bodies do business, Munich was placed eighth, Frankfurt and Brussels were 32nd and 33rd respectively, while Copenhagen was 18th and Hong Kong in 45th place. Dublin fares well (21st place), just behind well-hyped Sydney and Vancouver, and narrowly edged out by Prague.

The survey finds that Dublin is better for LGBT travellers than women (93.3pc versus 88.42pc). It's also viewed as good for Millennials (90.8pc) and security (90pc). The survey - based on a host of metrics, including hotel prices, taxi fares, etc - found Dublin to be weakest for galleries/museums at 78.79pc and eating out (85.42pc). Overall, it's not a bad score for Ireland. "Given the fact that we looked at over 1,000 cities worldwide, every destination that made it to this top 100 ought to be on your bucket list," said Tobias Boese, co-founder and managing director of WeekenGO.

Sunday Indo Business

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