How to...

Manage a crisis

You can't normally anticipate a crisis but you can be prepared to react swiftly and effectively when something untoward does happen. Katrina Cliffe of American Express Global Business Travel Europe advises how


The last few years have seen an increased need for companies to focus on traveller security and duty of care. Events such as the ash cloud in Europe were a reminder to us all about the importance of developing and maintaining procedures to minimise traveller disruption during a crisis.

Our own research among European travel managers revealed that 83 per cent of those surveyed said that security issues were included in their company travel policy and also considered that traveller security would be one of their top three priorities for the year ahead.

There are a number of principles that companies can implement to ensure best practice crisis management, so read on to find out more.

STEP 1: Keep your business travellers informed about potential issues – including health and security risks – before travel is even booked. Make use of pre-trip auditing tools that can provide information on relevant issues that may impact your company travel decisions and assess whether travel to an affected location is absolutely necessary and appropriate.

STEP 2: A good place to start when a crisis does occur is determining which employees may be impacted. Various technologies exist that allow companies to track where their employees are in the world at any given time, some of which also allow travel managers to contact those employees experiencing issues within a moment’s notice of an emergency situation.

Also consider what questions travellers might need answered first, such as: what the situation is, whether the company knows they have been affected, and what steps the company is taking to resolve the situation.

STEP 3: Rapid and controlled communication is necessary during a crisis, and companies should make best use of all available communication channels.

It may be worth completing an audit on what communication tools you have available before a crisis actually occurs. Telepresence, for example, delivers various benefits – it allows those on the ground to communicate with teams working remotely and it can help coordinate additional resources that may need to be deployed.

Communication channels should be available 24 hours a day to allow travellers – wherever they are in the world – to receive travel updates in an instant.

Support staff should be available to provide changes to travel and accommodation plans as needed, and to do it swiftly.

The need to optimise the flow of information between the traveller, the company and the travel management company has driven the development of mobility tools. These can allow for better situation management, helping travel managers to prioritise their communication and action regarding impacted travellers, and helping them to return home safely.

STEP 4: Thinking ahead and implementing a contingency plan in an emergency allows for smoother crisis management. Analyse the traveller data available to understand what contingency plans need to be put in place to ensure traveller safety and to mitigate future risks. Consider alternative venues such as out-of-town hotels if evacuation is required. Using a global team to leverage additional resources can help save time when sourcing alternative travel options.

Arrange different travel routes for travellers who are unable to travel by the means originally booked. Providing creative and secure contingency plans will ensure that employees affected by the crisis will experience as little disruption as possible.