Evacuation of Business Travelers in Trouble Is a Top Priority for Employers


Michael Probst  / Associated Press

Police officers patrol Brussels in November of 2015. A new study shows a majority of employers offer travel insurance and assistance to business travelers. Michael Probst / Associated Press

Skift Take: As global events have shown in recent years, business travelers need to be prepared for the unexpected no matter where they go.

— Hannah Sampson

What do employers value the most when it comes to insurance and assistance services for business travelers? According to a new report, the answer is: getting travelers to safety in case of a medical or security emergency.

That revelation was included in a study released recently by the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association in partnership with AIG Travel, a provider of travel insurance and assistance services. The report is based on an online survey of 167 travel managers in the U.S. and Canada.

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“It’s no surprise that travel professionals find medical and security services most important, when you consider the world we live in today,” Robert Gallagher, chief operating officer of AIG Travel, said a statement.

Slightly more than half — 53 percent — of travel managers surveyed said their companies provided travel insurance and assistance services to business travelers. Another 20 percent offered just assistance services, while 10 percent offered only insurance.

Seventeen percent of those who responded said their company didn’t provide either service, though GBTA Foundation research director Kate Vasiloff said those likely had some alternate measures in place. Some corporate cards come with built-in protections, and travelers might be required to purchase trip insurance with their airfare, for example.

“I’m not sold on the idea that 17 percent of these companies have no protections whatsoever,” she said.

Those numbers are higher than the association found in a 2014 study, though the statistics cannot be directly compared. In a survey of business travelers, 19 percent said their companies offered both travel insurance and assistance, while 25 percent said only insurance or only assistance was provided, and 31 percent said their company offered neither.

Because that report was based on answers from travelers and not travel managers, Vasiloff said it’s possible the business travelers were not fully aware of what their employers provided.

“I think there’s a knowledge gap there for sure at play,” she said. “And we’re talking about two tumultuous years in our ever-globalizing world. I think the adoption of these services probably did increase, but we can’t say how much of that is an awareness gap.”

More than 80 percent of those who responded to the survey said their companies offered travel advisories and travel health advisories. Nearly three quarters said they had travel tracking technology, and 69 percent said travelers had access to assistance via a website. Only 41 percent said they provided risk management training, and 26 percent said GPS tracking of travelers was available.

Vasiloff said the relatively low percentage of companies with risk management training surprised her. The report recommended even those traveling domestically should get some education in managing risk.

“Natural disasters can occur anywhere in the world at any time and in a world with shifting threats to security, business travelers should never leave the office without knowing exactly who to call and what to do should disaster strike,” the study said. “With less than half currently offering this, companies are leaving themselves and their travelers in a vulnerable position.”

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