Duty of care in the global institution
“We took calls from clients who had to sleep on the streets because their hotel was deemed too unsafe to enter”
Sean de Lacey, head of sales at Diversity Travel, a travel management firm which specialises in travel in the academic sector, discusses the importance of duty of care for growing institutions.
At an event in collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland, Diversity Travel invited procurement and finance personnel from UK academic institutions across the country to discuss key issues in academic travel. One of the main takeaways from the event was that many institutions have recognised the importance of overseas expansion and collaboration, and that it is essential that they travel to international markets to drive growth and development opportunities forward.
International travel gives these institutions access to a global network and allows academics to share first-hand experiences and insights with their students and fellow academics. Through a travel network that is becoming more affordable and easier to navigate, faculty can now reap the benefits of networking overseas to attract an international student base, and produce courses and research projects with a global perspective.
Travel clearly presents opportunities for institutions with a worldly outlook, but for those who handle travel booking processes, an array of financial and logistical challenges are presented. Travel therefore needs to be structured, standardised and easy to manage across the board to ensure institutions can retain a competitive advantage, while maintaining peace of mind.
“Travel therefore needs to be structured, standardised and easy to manage across the board”
Currently the most important consideration for our clients is duty of care.
A guest at our event shared an example of a faculty member who had been on what was perceived as a ‘safe’ trip to Mexico when the events of 9/11 happened. They suddenly found themselves stranded without travel. Despite this occurring 15 years ago, tragic events continue to occur in areas of the world previously considered safe – such as France and Belgium – and have been the main reason for this consideration being placed so high up on our clients’ agenda.
While governments the world over are doing their best to take action on terrorism, world epidemics and natural disasters cannot be avoided. In 2015 we also saw various world events in East Asia and West Africa that compromised the security of international travellers.
A delegate that attended our event recounted that during the Nepal earthquake, the university had a member of staff in the area who had booked his own travel, and could therefore not be tracked through a TMC.
When the Nepal earthquake hit, Diversity Travel had a total of 100 clients in both the academic and charity sectors either in Nepal, or due to travel there. Through our risk-management software, we were able to inform clients about the event almost immediately and let them know if they had any employees in the affected area within two hours.
Some clients in Kathmandu wanted to leave, and many were in extremely difficult circumstances. We took calls from clients who had to sleep on the streets because their hotel was deemed too unsafe to enter, for example. Booking flights out of Kathmandu was even more of a challenge than getting seats into the country.
Many of the academics in Nepal had planned to only be there for a week or less, as opposed to aid workers who we regularly book for several month long trips. This was fortunate because it meant people already had flights out of the country scheduled for the following few days, and where it helped to have a travel management company on hand. Though it was an understandably difficult time for many people that wanted to leave as soon as possible, based on the information we received from international news portals, we advised clients to keep their original booking. Sure enough, many flights resumed on the Sunday after the quake.
In November of the same year, when the Mount Rinjani volcano forced the closure of airports and blanketed villages and farmlands in Bali, one of our clients was attending a conference in the country at the time of the eruption. Our reservations team worked with local partner agencies to arrange the safe repatriation of the attendees. The team had to find ways of getting over 40 guests to an airport where flights were being permitted and, by using their collective knowledge and experience of the area, our team was able to co-ordinate travel by boat to Jakarta airport where travellers had been booked on a flight home.
Unexpected events can happen at any time and are out of our control, but travel is a necessity that cannot be avoided for academic institutions looking to expand. It is important, therefore, to ensure you have agreed processes with your travel partner that not only fit with the requirements of your institution, but have safety and duty of care in mind. This way, the institution can focus on global growth, knowledge sharing, and improving the academic experience for all involved.