Events, Dear Boy, Events

Why it really is time to take travel risk training seriously

When Harold Macmillan, the then Prime Minister was asked what the most difficult aspect of his job was he replied, “Events, dear boy, events”. Thus, reflecting what we all know, that it’s the unexpected that presents us with the greatest challenges.

Well the New Year has already certainly been eventful when it comes to international incidents. We wrote recently about the possible implications of the death of the Iranian Quds Force commander, Soleimani. As predicted the initial impact has been felt in Iraq, with missile attacks on two US bases, and in Iran with the detention of the British Ambassador and demonstrations outside the British Embassy. Iranian reaction has since been tempered by the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner close to Tehran but longer term we can expect to see wider repercussions across the Middle East.

In Africa we have seen an upsurge in attacks by Al Shabaab in Kenya since the beginning of January, including the apparent targeting of a British military base; not to mention a plague of locusts. While in Cyprus, the conviction then the release of a British woman for perverting the course of justice in relation to a rape claim has highlighted the hazards faced by young females travelling to countries with different legal systems.

Further afield we have also seen floods in Indonesia, bush fires in Australia, a volcanic eruption in the Philippines and the coronavirus in China, all this and it’s only January! So, what does this tell us? Well, this collage of ‘events’ only goes to demonstrate the diverse and unpredictable world in which we live and can have a direct impact on the hazards faced by business travellers and tourists alike.

The global threat environment is continually changing and it’s simply not possible to second guess or predict events with any certainty. Thus, we must accept that ultimately travellers will find themselves having to self-manage unexpected situations while they are overseas. Interpreting evolving threats, knowing how to reduce your vulnerability and, if required, how to respond to a variety of threat scenarios, are essential skills in the traveller toolkit.

This of course places greater emphasis on the individual as opposed to the organisation. It emphasises individual competencies rather than simply organisational capability. The latter typically consists of an overarching travel risk management system, a set of policies, procedures and systems all of which support the individual traveller. However, at the individual level it comes down to self-help, relying on the individual’s skills and knowledge, drawing on a combination of formal training, self-learning and experience.

There is of course a legal, not to mention a moral duty of care on all organisations to put in place reasonable measures to protect their employees and contractors against all foreseeable risk. This applies when they are travelling overseas too. Providing them with the right training and generic tools to help them identify, mitigate and manage risk on an individual basis in an unpredictable world should be a key component of that policy.

Over the next few months we will be exploring how organisations can develop an overarching and system based approach to travel risk training, to ensure that all travellers receive appropriate and proportionate training interventions based on their organisational role, personal profile and each organisation’s unique travel footprint.

David Curran MA CSyP FSyl Chartered FCIPD

Director, Edson Tiger