Prioritizing traveler safety: a comprehensive approach to DE&I in business travel

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Prioritizing Traveler Safety: A Comprehensive Approach to DE&I in Business Travel

By Christine Connolley, Crisis Program Manager, Global Crisis Management

Today, a growing number of businesses are prioritizing inclusivity across their organization, which requires identifying and accommodating the varied needs of their workforce.

While cultivating an inclusive culture internally is pivotal, it’s equally important to recognize and prioritize the safety, comfort, and inclusivity of all employees when they travel on behalf of your company. This requires identifying and preventing risks that are unique to marginalized communities.

Here’s four steps travel managers can take to begin incorporating Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) into their program.

1. Know your travelers

A good starting point is to understand who your travelers are and what concerns and needs they might have. The intersection of traveler safety with DE&I is influenced, in part, by considerations related to identity and lived experience.

While we may think we know who’s included under the DE&I umbrella, in practice, there are a lot more identities that need to be considered than one might think. It’s perhaps common to consider the needs of women, employees with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ employees. But what about the needs of neurodivergent or older employees, or those with underlying health conditions? Since some people won’t want to divulge their personal information, having a process for collecting anonymous feedback is useful.

2. Understand the safety risks

As a travel manager it’s useful for you to understand the risks your travelers might be concerned about, as well as those they might be less aware of.  Some of this information is publicly available. For example, research from BCD Travel shows that 50% of women worry most about violent crime such as sexual harassment, assault, and kidnapping on work trips, and over half of women feel the least safe when walking in the streets or driving in unfamiliar locations.

There are also considerations for LGBTQ+ employees traveling to countries where same-sex relationships are still criminalized (63 countries as of 2023). They could face difficulties like deportation, harassment, or even be denied access to healthcare if they need medical assistance.

In a recent panel discussion, Christine Connolley, Senior Program Manager, Global Crisis Management said: “Even in areas where same-sex relations are not criminalized, discrimination and lack of legal protection remain prevalent, which makes a compelling argument for understanding the potential risks.”


3. Make a plan to meet needs and manage risks

Once you’re aware of travelers’ potential needs and any potential risks, the next step is to plan to manage them. This can seem overwhelming, but the key is to empower employees with all the tools needed to travel safely, including destination information, training, and information about who to contact if they experience a problem while traveling for the company. There are a couple of potential approaches:

One approach is to get advice from, or partner with, DE&I groups within your company. This could be a designated DE&I team, human resources, or even employee resource groups (ERGs). As the experts on tackling these issues, they may be able to advise on meeting the needs of the different traveler communities, as well as best practices for doing so.

Another is to use a third-party assistance provider who’s adept at traveler risk management. Some providers include training for different groups (for example, for women traveling alone) to help travelers manage risks when they’re on the ground. This can be a valuable resource. For example, our Traveler Security Program Assessment provides a complete risk review, identifying gaps and redundancies and making strategic recommendations for improvements, including recommendations to close gaps on all aspects of your travel risk program, including DE&I aspects.

Don’t forget to consider how your suppliers can influence your travelers’ experience. Partnering with suppliers that have clear commitments towards DE&I that align with your goals and values can have a strong impact on your program.

4. Keep travelers informed

Once you know travelers’ needs and have a plan to manage any risks they may face, it’s essential to get the information to the travelers. You can do this even if travelers haven’t disclosed their needs by making information widely available and letting all travelers know where and how to access it.

For example, instead of simply linking to information in a travel policy use traveler engagement strategies to reach travelers. One effective tactic is to create guides for travelers in different circumstances to raise awareness of risks, and make suggestions for how to manage those risks on a trip. Your DE&I team can also be a good resource in reaching specific communities through the channels and internal communities they manage.

Finally, creating safety for travelers is a shared responsibility. The key parties involved can vary from company to company, including teams like security, risk management, HR, DE&I and more. It’s important to collaborate with the key players in your company and acknowledge that the travelers themselves also have a role to play. Make sure that information isn’t just a one-way street. Include a mechanism to get feedback from travelers after a trip so you can ensure the information you’ve provided is continuing to reduce risk and meet their needs.

By actively engaging with travelers and advocating for their safety, you can contribute to creating a more inclusive and safer travel experience. Ready to incorporate DE&I into your travel risk management strategy? Contact us today!

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