The Arab spring along with the Japan crisis, and most recently, the floods in Thailand, have brought the topic of tracking travelers to the forefront for many security professionals but, even more importantly, so have the challenges in doing so. Here are three main challenges that continue to exist with tracking travelers globally today:
- Compliance. To ensure a company is receiving the best travel data, a clear policy needs to be developed to dictate how travel should be booked. One of the most effective ways to drive compliance is to link the payment/reimbursement for travel expenses to compliance with the policy. Travel booked outside of the prescribed channel may not be reimbursed or require a lengthier or more complex approval process.Travel can be arranged through designated travel management companies, or in some cases, a specific online booking tool so that travel itinerary data can be captured. Savvy companies are using online travel tracking solutions that can take data feeds from multiple sources and be accessed remotely using a mobile device since most events don’t happen during normal business working hours.
- Unplanned changes to travel itinerary.Last minute meetings, travel delays, personal issues and other circumstances inevitably cause last minute changes. Manual entry of travel plans should be a last resort but will required if you want to capture “all data.” A system may never be 100 percent accurate, but offering this manual entry option certainly increases data validity which is priceless during a crisis. Also today, there is an interest in location awareness or GPS (Global Positioning System). While GPS can certainly inform organizations where their travelers are located at that precise moment, no amount of GPS can determine where a traveler will be in the future, so there is still a need for traditional tracking. GPS will complement, rather than replace, itinerary-driven systems.
- Communication.In any crisis whether it’s a large-scale event or a personal situation, the ability to communicate effectively with travelers can be challenging at times. For example, during the Egyptian crisis many companies had an employee’s mobile phone number but failed to have on hand a home, land-line phone number. Hence, communicating with these travelers was difficult during these early days of the crisis. It is always suggested to have multiple ways to communicate with travelers including SMS, satellite phones, social networks, company websites and email.
For more advice around tracking during a crisis, review this blog post, http://dialoguesondutyofcare.com/2011/09/tracking-during-a-crisis/