The impact coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on the travel industry is unprecedented and has even put the most robust travel risk management plans to test. If there are key take-aways from recent events, they are to expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything. Global Product Leader for FCM Secure, Matthew DeMaris, who has been at the forefront of the crisis since the start, shares his thoughts around the key learnings identified by both our business and the customers we serve.
Key Takeaways for Travel Managers and Customers
Have a plan in place and assign clear roles and responsibilities to your key risk stakeholders
Responsibility for managing risk does not fall on any one person or department. A robust risk management team should include individuals from operations, legal, communications and HR. The clients who have had the most effective responses to COVID-19 formed their crisis team early and made informed decisions on how to mitigate their risk.
Recognise and communicate the tools you have prior to a crisis occurring
Most travel management companies offer customers a range of tools to help them successfully navigate a crisis. However, in times of stability, understanding behind the function and accessibility of these tools is actually pretty low. At FCM, we saw a sharp spike in requests for access to Secure, our risk management tool, at the start of the pandemic, despite the tool being available for some time. In order to be prepared for future events, practice checking security updates and traveller whereabouts via your risk management tool.
Automation is key
If you can put measures in place to automate your crisis response process, you’ll be in good shape for the future. Ensure the tools your travel management company (TMC) offer are powered by a reputable crisis management provider, like WorldAware, to help facilitate this process. Having immediate access to updated crisis information, and the tools to easily assess which travellers are affected, can drastically cut down your response time in getting travellers to safety. Being able to automate crisis communications out to your travellers by means of a mobile app like Sam is also key.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help
In times of crisis, having a partner backed by people who genuinely care about the wellbeing of your travellers can really pay in dividends. In response to the current crisis, we were able to work with our clients to build a custom COVID-19 dashboard in Secure that enabled customers to quickly assess their risk and respond to it, thus providing our clients with a further level of security during a period of uncertainty.
What Did We Learn as a Travel Management Company?
A crisis can come in many shapes and sizes
The past weeks have certainly put our business to the test. We have learned that technology is only as good as the experts behind it, and I am so proud of the unwavering commitment our people have shown by supporting our customers through this crisis. We have also learned that quick response times and access to clean data that we can mold into critical intelligence for our customers are vital.
The value of our relationships and our industry knowledge
Travel is more than just booking reservations. It’s about the industry knowledge – knowing where to go for important information. It’s the benefit of having access to WorldAware, IATA, and being able to harness those tools to support our customers – resources we have access to as part of a global organisation. Additionally, strong relationships with the airlines and hotel chains allows us to work collaboratively with these industry partners to find solutions that can benefit our travellers with speed and efficiency.
Awareness around traveller health and wellness is more important than ever
FCM has always spoken about topics such as traveller stress and road warrior retention, and I predict that additional health risk factors will play a role in how travel management companies can help clients moving forward.
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Matthew DeMaris is the FCM Global Product Leader for Secure, a role he has held for 2 of his 7 years at FCM. Overseeing a comprehensive approach to providing health and safety solutions for clients is just one of the many aspects of his day-to-day. Matthew also facilitates relationships with our travel risk partners and provides subject matter expertise to clients on their travel risk management strategies. Additionally, Matthew is the leader and founder of FCM’s Global Travel Risk Committee and oversees Flight Centre USA’s constituency to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). An avid traveller, Matthew has visited over 21 countries and holds a degree in International Relations and French from Lake Forest College in Illinois.