Why the London Riots Created a Greater Business Travel Threat Than a Terrorist Attack

Introduction to the London riots threat

If you have business travel to London, you need to read this article. In this article you will discover why the London riots created a greater travel threat than a terrorist attack. We will examine the threat posed by the London riots and demonstrations, terrorist attacks and resulting travel delays, disruptions and changes. At the end of this article, you will have a specific understanding of the required business travel management response and awareness as to why this will happen again.

The London riots and demonstrations has resulted in one of the largest business travel disruptions of 2011.

London Riots and Demonstrations

The London riots and demonstrations have come as a complete surprise to many. It is not a unique event and certainly not unique to the UK. The scale, violence, fire and failure of the authorities is often something expected in other countries but the lack of preparedness for destinations like the UK is common and widespread. Therefore, the lack of preparedness and last-minute scramble to respond and the inability to avoid major business travel disruptions are widespread as a result.

Due to the footprint of disruption, many routes and modes of transport have been negatively affected. Simple commute from the airport, trains and ports to planned accommodation options have been altered and continuous review of hazard or threat assessment are required. Furthermore, travel support providers such as taxis, hotels, restaurants, emergency services an other basic amenities have also been affected, to varying degrees.

Travel and risk managers need to immediately identify:

Affected areas,
Degree of threat,
Affected and exposed (inbound and outbound) business travellers,
Arrival/departure points,
Safe and non-affected areas,
Mitigation or eradication options,
Cost of implementation,
Funds available,
Emergency support,
Accommodation options,
On-going or developing events,
Social or non-business activity,
Insurance claims and compliance requirements,
Cancellation criteria,
Resumption of travel criteria,
Extended event plans,
Travel alternatives (domestic and international)
The London riots have affected multiple support systems related to business and leisure travel. Any leisure travel disruptions will further compound business travel threats such as decreased accommodation options, airport congestion and increased public transport demand. Even simple actions like withdrawing money from an ATM will prove a challenge and compound the hazard/s.

The London riots have had a prolonged affect on UK business travel sector, far greater than the majority of terrorist attacks. Further affects such as planning and preparation for the 2012 Olympics will also contribute to the lingering affects.

A lack of planning and subsequent response capability by businesses could constitute a failure of duty of care, due diligence, corporate social responsibility, workplace health and safety or other related legislation.

Terrorist attacks less of a threat than London riots

With the exception of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, most have limited travel disruption and only affect a narrow band of travellers. Inclusive of the Mumbai terror attack, terrorist attacks typically have clearly defined threat elements (terrorist, bombings, gunfire, etc) whereas the London riots is a constantly changing and unclear threat. Most business travellers will be unprepared for such decision-making demands and lack sufficient experience to make consistent and safe decisions.

Most contemporary business risk management systems focus on location and plausible event threats, then seek to inform or prepare travellers for the best results to mitigate or eliminate the hazards and threats. Therefore, the bulk of business travellers will not be prepared or educated on how to respond in London, with such wide spread disruption and threats. Few will have residual knowledge from information and preparation for such events in other locations, considered more likely to be medium to high risk. Many of the supporting business travel management departments and managers will be equally unprepared and resourced.

A terrorist attack and other similar violent crimes would have a much smaller footprint of disruption, not affected such a wide business travel demographic, not affect business travel support providers so comprehensively or have such a prolonged impact on all exposed.

Routine travel delays, disruptions and changes represent one of the most persistent and probable travel risk management issues.

Travel delay, disruption and changes

Change management and the decision-making involved is one of the most commonly accepted workplace hazard concerns. This is equally relevant to business travel and business travel threats.

The instinctive and guided response of travellers to any delay, disruption or change can significantly affect the outcome of any spontaneous or new hazard as it presents. Particularly when this is the first level of response, before support options and resources can be activated or come into affect.

Travel delays have been triggered due to airport and airline workers unable to get to work, taxi drivers not able to refuel vehicles, hotels and staff overwhelmed, business travellers unprepared and convergence of business and leisure travellers upon all available exit travel nodes.

Access to information, at all levels, the ability to consume and process all the options and explore alternatives is imperative in this and similar travel disruption events. Crisis leadership will succeed more frequently than simple crisis management, to which are dependent upon timely and accurate information from all available resources.

Unfortunately, many will fail to fully understand the gravity of the events, the threats posed and respond or prepare accordingly. While many others exposed will chalk it up to another force majeure or random act that is just part of the rich experience of international travel. Courts, business travellers and peer review increasingly do not share this flippant view.

This scenario and lack of preparedness has been played out numerous times in recent history. Volcanos, volcanic ash affects, Japan’s tsunami, airport closures, airline failure and many others have caught business travellers and managers alike unprepared. This disturbing trend will continue.

Conclusion: London riots threat

You should now see why the London riots have a far greater impact and threat to travellers than you may have originally thought. We have examined the business travel threat posed by the London riots, terrorist attacks and resulting travel delays. You now have a specific plan for this and similar events and the required business travel management and response. This will happen again. Perhaps not in London, perhaps not a city wide demonstration but this kind and scale of business travel disruption event will happen more than once before the end of 2011. Review your plan and make the necessary enhancements now.

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Travel Risk Management: Are You Ready for a Crisis?

Introduction

If you know that business travel is not without its risk and the potential for crisis, then you need to read this article. In this article we are going to talk about the management and containment of crisis as it relates to travellers and travel managers. The objective of this article is to share with you the collective knowledge on managing crisis and significantly improve your ability to identify and manage a crisis but also improve your business travel efficiency.

During this article I am going to discuss travel risk myths, crisis management, plans and options so you can immediately compare or improve your own travel risk management system for your travellers or travel management department.

Crisis by definition is something you didn’t have a plan for or something in which you are unprepared. Additionally, it can be a series of events that in concert create a crisis. Events or issues that occur, to which you have a plan and strategy, is merely an incident.

Crisis Management/Leadership

The first thing is to clarify what is the difference between crisis management and leadership. More importantly, which one is the more important?

Crisis management relates to the response to event/s that threaten your business, travellers or travel activity. The event leads and you follow with plans, decisions and actions.

Crisis leadership, on the other hand, is more about getting ahead of the events and issues to prevent, management and even contain the impact to your business or business travel activities. While management is a portion of the leadership demand, your actions and involvement lead the outcomes rather than a more passive wait and act approach with pure crisis management.

Crisis leadership is the less practiced of the two, but the most significant in terms of results and reduction in risk and impact. If you take nothing else away from this session, it should be that your focus should always be on Crisis Leadership, not crisis management.

Myths

There are many myths and half-truths about crisis, disruption and threats within the travel management sector. Much of this misinformation has originated from travellers themselves, media, travel managers, friends and family or so called “experts”.

For example, many travellers and planners are focused on terrorism. The reality is, you have a very, very small chance of being exposed or affected directly by a terrorist act. It doesn’t mean you should discount it as a threat altogether but it shouldn’t dominate your plans or processes if not a proportional threat to you and your travellers. Conversely, almost everyone overlooks motor vehicle accidents. Yet, they happen far more frequently, can have devastating affect on travellers and are the least common plan contained within company travel management departments.

Travellers and travel managers must be prepared, educated and have supporting plans for any event that has the potential to delay, disrupt or harm the traveller or the business.

The most common events include:

Motor vehicle accidents
Airline delays or cancellations
Airport closures or disruptions
Transport delays
Bad weather
Sickness and illness
Petty crimes
Hotel fires
Political disputes
Demonstrations and gatherings
Motor vehicle accidents within your own country can be stressful and dangerous but on an overseas business trip they can be 100 times more challenging and dangerous. Consider language, local authorities, first responder, standard of healthcare, families and support in your plans and initial response.

Airline delays and cancelations. They happen all the time but they are not just an administrative response. You may need to consider safety, transport, quarantines, security threats, government response and wide spread suspension of services to overcome the issue and maintain safety of your travellers.

Airport closures or disruptions. Failed systems, electrical problems, threats, weather, construction and so on can prevent you even getting to your flight. Consider the impact this has on your plans and how your traveller will need to possibly extend stay, move to alternate airport or find accommodation.

All other transport delays and disruptions can create crisis when everyone no longer has access to trains, buses, key roads or even water transport. Have a plan and add it to your immediate decision making process.

2010 and the commencement of 2011 has seen travel of all kind affected by natural disasters and weather. Weather and natural forces have and always will impact travellers. It does and will continue to occur. It is highly concerning how unprepared travellers and companies are for volcanic eruptions, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and general bad weather.

People get sick or feel unwell all the time. This is compounded significantly when travelling. Standard of care, language, access, cost, complications, choice and numerous other location based concerns will determine just how at risk your traveller will be. A single, “one-size-fits-all” plan or solution will fail and you need to be aware of these issues immediately with the onset of an affected traveller.

Crimes are a reality of any city in the world. However, travellers seldom know the risks and may be preyed upon by thieves and criminals. The loss of phones, money, and other items may seem less likely to constitute a crisis but when overseas, injured or not able to speak the local language, all these simple events can create a major concern for your business travellers. This can be amplified if you have a senior executive or a group of executives affected.

Hotel fires and emergencies are more common than most people think. The immediate threat to an individual is fairly obvious but the impact that the lack of accommodation choices can create from the temporary or permanent closure of a hotel is a much bigger concern. This was graphically displayed during the Mumbai terror attacks (as extra ordinary as the event was) when most of the best/preferred hotels were now unavailable in a key part of the city. This removed thousands of rooms for business travellers and forced many to cancel or significantly alter travel plans just because there were a lack of suitable accommodation options, whether affected by the events or not.

Any event that alters the political stability of a location or region or results in thousands of people out on the streets constitutes a risk to your business travel plans and travellers. They can happen spontaneously or take time to develop. The immediate dangers and the ongoing disruption can have a major impact on your business or traveller.

Again, plans, preparation and thought to these issues will greatly reduce the impact and improve your business too.

Now that we have removed the most common misconceptions, let’s focus on the management and containment of a crisis.

Crisis management

The key to successful crisis management is planning, training, plans, decision-making and adaptability.

Planning

Given the issues previously covered, you now have a better insight into how and why planning is important to remove the more emotive issues from the realities of real business threats and events.

Planning needs to include multiple departments and perspectives to be truly effective. One of the greatest weaknesses I see regularly is that departments continue to manage the risk of travel through multiple departments with multiple plans. The input and plan needs to be unified. Depending on the company, it may include travel managers, security, HR, finance, marketing, C-suite and operations.

All plans need to be continuously updated, location specific, aide in the decision-making process and modular enough have elements extracted quickly and effectively. Modern, effective plans embrace technology. Rapid, efficient access to information, along with running updates is the hallmarks of a modern sustainable plan, regardless of the size of the issue or the company.

Training

No plan is effective without training and rehearsal. Training, whether through simulations, drills or live, full-scale exercises are vital to the success of any crisis situation. Such sessions don’t need to be boring or overly complicated but must include travel managers and planners along with the more common crisis and emergency managers.

Increasingly, training is becoming a mandatory requirement for key positions and roles. It can be linked to internal HR processes but must support the business objectives and measurable on how it reduces the risk to people, business, brand and travel demands.

While the plan creates the framework for crisis decision-making, teams can learn a lot from training on how and when to adapt their plans. How the team interacts, strength, weakness, leaders, followers, limitations, tools and many more planned and surprise outcomes are possible with effective training.

Adaptations

No plan will completely script all the events, issues and options available for every plausible travel delay, disruption or crisis. You need to be able to adapt and evolve from the original plan and intention. This can only be achieved with planning, plans and training.

Solutions So what do I need in my plan?

Here is the best travel risk management content for your plan:

Objective(the single most important part of any travel policy)
References
Scope
Legal