Ensuring Safe and Secure Incentive Travel ExperiencesApril 1, 2017

April 1, 2017

Ensuring Safe and Secure Incentive Travel Experiences

Anonson,Jill-ITAGroup-1-110x140Jill Anonson has more than 20 years of experience in strategic incentive travel, event management and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Solution Manager at ITA Group. She is responsible for market definition, competitive research, business plan development and more while creating strategies and solutions that help ITA Group thrive. ITA Group creates and manages incentives, events and recognition programs that align and motivate people. Headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa, ITA Group has operations in every region of the United States and award solutions for 75+ countries globally. www.itagroup.com

It’s no secret that elements of the evolving global landscape trickle over into the travel industry. New risks and threats pop up without warning, and the travel and event industry is particularly vulnerable to the changes. What seems like a safe destination one day might raise eyebrows the next, forcing event planners into a difficult spot.

“Safeguarding proprietary information such as company financial data and trade secrets, as well as guest information, is imperative.”

Yet, according to a Global Business Travel Association survey, nearly 30 percent of companies reported their organization lacked a risk management plan or were unsure if there was one. That’s an incredibly vulnerable position for travel planners and their clients alike.

The good news is that the risk inherent in incentive travel can be successfully mitigated through risk management. Designing and delivering safe yet once-in-a-lifetime experiences in all corners of the world can be a reality if a comprehensive and flexible approach is used.

First: Assess the Risk

Before you can mitigate risk, you need to assess it. How much is too much? Consider these questions before selecting your destination:

  • People. How will you accommodate their basic needs when traveling, such as physical safety, access to medical services and the ability to communicate?
  • Experience. Will the destination meet the desire of your demographic? And will the quality of medical support be acceptable?
  • Dollars. Since your incentive travel experience or event is a business investment, a profitable return is your goal. Assess whether or not your mitigation tactics are sufficient to ensure a solid return.

Destination Considerations

Arming yourself with as much timely and accurate intelligence as you can gather will allow you to identify and assess the risks of a destination. Securing legitimate intelligence will largely depend on the authenticated resources to which you have access. While destination management professionals and the news media may be able to offer insight, a qualified intelligence professional (i.e., a global security expert) often can deliver more pertinent and timely information. If you don’t have a proper resource on staff who can deliver the necessary level of accuracy or detail, consider contracting with a professional individual or team that can.

A crisis management or emergency management plan is essential. The destination-specific intelligence you gather will allow you to fine tune that plan, mitigating risk down to the lowest possible level. The plan should include — but is not limited to — these strategies:

  • An emergency meeting location. Being able to account for each of your guests in the event of a fire or flood is the first step to ensuring traveler safety. Your emergency meeting location should be shared in pre-event communications and reinforced onsite at arrival.
  • An evacuation strategy. If your group is in an area where tropical storms are a possibility, a detailed evacuation plan may prove lifesaving.
  • Reliable communication. If the terror threat rises or public unrest escalates while you are onsite, knowing exactly how you will reach each and every one of your guests with details and instructions is a must. Strongly consider leveraging your event technology such as an app, or create an emergency text/email distribution list to disseminate mass messages.

Medical Risk Management

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…the hazards associated with travel cannot be eliminated. …The goal in travel and in travel medicine should be skillfully managing risk, rather than trying to eliminate risk.”

From potentially life-threatening medical emergencies to travel-related injury and illness, the risk of a situation requiring medical attention is quite likely with a large group of travelers, making it critical to have medical care procedures in place. Well in advance of the trip, research and complete a checklist that details:

  • The nearest hospital and pharmacy.
  • Hotel phone number, security procedures and emergency process.
  • Whether there is an AED (automated external defibrillator) program and/or doctor on call at the hotel.
  • EMT and ambulance estimate travel time to/from hotel.
  • U.S. Embassy location/address and hours of operation.
  • Decide how, in the event of a medical emergency, the staff should contact emergency services for assistance.
  • Prepare a list of which onsite team members should be immediately notified.
  • Determine if staff members (either your team or the hotel/travel staff) have emergency training in first aid, CPR or AED use, and if there a first aid kit or AED near where the event will take place.

Data Protection

While the evolution of technology as it relates to travel and events is of immense value, the benefits come with substantial risk. Safeguarding proprietary information such as company financial data and trade secrets, as well as guest information, is imperative. Your data risk management approach should be carefully planned with your information technology team. Data collection/encryption, network security and security access features of your event spaces need to be analyzed. Third-party services being utilized by technology suppliers to collect information and the privacy policies in place should be examined. Also, appropriate social media policies should be established for your event.

Consider the data security of your individual attendees, asking these questions:

  • Does the event space’s VPN (Virtual Private Network)extend to the guest rooms?
  • Will you or the hotel be using beacons to convey or collect information from attendees, and what might this expose?
  • What is your policy for lost or stolen devices and identifiable information?

Financial Security

A travel experience or event is an investment for your company — and protecting that investment is critical to its success. There may be times when the risk is greater than the reward, and cancellation becomes a reality, or events outside your control force you to revise travel dates or switch hotels. But there are protective measures you can take to protect yourself and your investment. Here are five major contracting considerations:

  • Rates, deposits and payment schedules, including your contracted attrition rate and deposit schedule.
  • Do you have a reasonable cancellation schedule and force majeure terms that are up to date as they relate to global risk factors? Have you negotiated construction/renovation terms that can have an impact on your travel experience?
  • Confidentiality. What protections are in place for you and your guests? Have you negotiated terms prohibiting your hotel partner from booking your competitors during your event date?
  • Insurance. Do your hotelier partners and third-party suppliers have adequate insurance portfolios?
  • Are mutual indemnification and hold-harmless terms part of your agreement? Have you formally defined how you will resolve disputes?

The bottom line is that exercising sound risk management is good business. Mitigating risk is a win for you, your business and your valued guests. C&IT

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