From airline CEO’s to travel directors, the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – were on the minds of many of the 7,000 people who attended the Global Business Travel Association annual convention this week in Boston. We are also reminded that Duty of Care continues to play an important role in travel and risk management.
The annual convention is a great opportunity to meet and hear from leaders in the field of travel management. For those of us, like myself, who work the security side of the Duty of Care issue, an event like this reminds us of the central role our travel management colleagues play in fulfilling our duty to take care of our travelers.
Informative and well-presented education sessions dealt with issues such as travel risk management, traveler tracking and provision of medical and security assistance to travelers, all critical in fulfilling Duty of Care. While there are plenty of players in this effort, the travel manager, who defines and implements the travel program, often is the one who ensures the health and safety of our travelers.
The BRIC countries are home to expanding marketplaces and new opportunities for many industries, including financial, airlines, processing and manufacturing. Organizations are seeking to take advantage of promising economic climates in these regions continue to send US-based employees abroad to manage projects and establish new operations there. As with all travel to unfamiliar environments, living and working in the BRIC countries presents a specific set of healthcare and security challenges for organizations and their people.
In its dozen years of existence, JetBlue has gone from a domestic airline to serving international destinations in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. “Business flyers have been an important part of that change,” said David Barger, JetBlue President and CEO, during a Monday roundtable. Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Air, echoed that sentiment. Its service includes Russia and the Middle East and is looking to the Far East. “More airlines are looking further east,” Kjos said. And President George W. Bush in his address to convention attendees on Tuesday noted how much China has changed in the past decade.
Two of my colleagues, Alex Puig, Regional Security Director for the Americas for International SOS and Control Risks; and Dr. Robert Quigley, Americas Region Medical Director for International SOS, discussed security and medical risks when traveling to these countries. They were joined by Shelby LeMaire, Corporate Travel Manager for iRobot.
Travel growth to the BRIC countries has increased by 2- to 3 percent a year over other nations. Yet the BRIC countries fall into the Top 20 perceived high-risk locations in the Duty of Care and Travel Risk Management Global Benchmarking Study that surveyed 628 global organizations. While Mexico was regarded as the highest risk, the BRIC countries also ranked high, with India (5), China (8), Russia (14) and Brazil (16).
The key takeaway is that travel to BRIC countries should be encouraged, and companies who consider and plan for security and medical needs of their travelers will be ahead of the game. Travel managers are critical to this success by doing their homework and ensuring travelers are briefed on issues that may arise in specific locations in those countries.