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Safety trumps cost for business travel

Security and safety overtakes cost control as International National Trust Organisation reviews 2017 conference

Pictured: Catherine Leonard, of the International National Trust Organisation

Safety and security is now the top priority for business executives when considering travel plans new research has revealed, overtaking cost control.

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), which gathered the data in its annual EVP Barometer, says 96 per cent of companies surveyed have implemented safety procedures. 

Event organisers say their processes are being reviewed to ensure safety is a top priority, following recent terror attacks in Paris and Indonesia.

Catherine Leonard, from the International National Trust Organisation, says safety had been high on her radar after one of her colleagues was in Indonesia at the time of the recent terror attacks, while scouting venues for their 2017 conference.

She said the organisation was reviewing whether or not to hold the event in Indonesia as a result.

"We're still 18 months out, it isn't until 2017 and everything can change by then … but we are beginning to worry about our Indonesian conference," she said.

"My personal view is that after the 2005 Bali Bombings I think they've ramped up their security and I'm confident they're taking it very seriously. But we probably need to think about whether we should worry or not. We have no plans to cancel yet … I haven't had a chance to chat with my colleague and get a debrief about what was happening on the ground (at the time of the attacks). But we may look at what Indonesia can assure us about their security."

Leonard said it had resulted in her reassessing and introducing safety protocols.

"I think perhaps we do need to review our safety procedures, but we don't have any processes at this stage," she said.

"We obviously have a process for selecting our host destination for the conference and security is part of that, and we follow foreign office. But the decision on where to hold our conferences are taken years in advance, and these things change quite rapidly."

Rob Edwards, head of events at FIS Global, said security was among the company's top priority.

"At FIS we take business travel very seriously and it has to some degree overtaken cost as the number one factor when planning. With the increase in acts of terrorism, natural disasters and other unforeseen incidents it is vital our business continuity and security teams are able to mitigate any issues."

Edwards said FIS had a number of safety procedures involving business travel. He said: "We have a travel policy which restricts the amount of employees per flight, car, train, boat. Once travel is booked, all employees travelling get a pre-trip advisory email from International SOS which outlines special knowledge and assistance regarding security, medical and personal issues regarding the destination being travelled to."

The Barometer also found that business travel spending increased by 1.4 per cent in 2015, more than twice the rise anticipated in 2014 (0.7 per cent).

Elyes Mrad, managing director of EMEA at American Express Global Business Travel said: “The Barometer reveals that respondents are optimistic when it comes to business travel spending, however they continue to perceive business travel as a cost, rather than an investment. This demonstrates that calculating the return-on-investment of business travel is still a challenge for companies.” 

“Companies should work closely with travel management companies to address their evolving business travel priorities of security, cost control and traveller satisfaction, while introducing technology and innovation to help their overall programme efficiency.” 

Number third priority for business travel organisers, after safety and security and cost control, was traveller satisfaction.

It found 76 per cent of respondents still viewed business travel as a necessary cost, compared to 24 per cent who see it as an investment.

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