Travel risk management is a fabricated term used inconsistently for the purpose of abbreviation by many in the travel services industry.
At its core the term is an assumption that there it is a convergence of 3 professions, namely; travel, risk and management, all equally represented and weighted.
They are not.
Subject, verb, object is a standard English grammar sequence known as “active voice”, where you prioritise the subject by placing if first in the sequence.
Travel risk management is an active statement which implies travel is the dominant subject in the sentence, which influences people to assume that travel is, therefore, a driver in risk management.
All these assumptions are wrong and have set a dangerous standard for middle managers, small business entities and business travellers.
Moreover, any business decisions or organisational action predicated on this error only compounds an already flawed design and amplifies risk.
Let’s examine travel in more detail.
Travel is an age-old word used for hundreds of years, most typically associated with personal and leisure travel, especially those that could afford it.
Business travel on the other hand only makes a more frequent appearance in English expressions in the 1960s and proliferates until the late 1990s where it seems to have plateaued.
Business travel first emerged as a privileged, more expensive and technical process that was predominately outsourced.
The reason for much of this outsourcing was due to the fact that none of the leading travel actors, that being airlines, hotels, governments and so on really “spoke to each other” or used a standardised system to achieve even the most basic of domestic or international travel booking.
Today, much of the travel process is technology based or automated, except where poor technology and system integrations still exist.
Humans are really only involved where the systems still fail to work effectively, communicate with modern systems or are historical legacies of the “gold plated” days of customer service where humans answer phones and emails directly.
If you look at retail and leisure travel, only the really inexperienced and elderly tend to use travel agents anymore, with the exception of the very wealthy.
The same could be said for business travel which is a much, much smaller segment of travel in general.
Nowhere in this evolution can you observe contemporary and qualified risk management.
Enterprise Risk Management is a holistic approach to the analysis and management of risk that has grown in maturity in the past decade.
“There is a danger that if risk is not addressed in a holistic manner by the board, larger risks which are hard to define, such as corporate reputation, will not be properly addressed.” Note Merna and Al-Thani in their comprehensive book titled Corporate Risk Management on Page 63.
In other words, leaving separate business entities, departments or disciplines to manage risk on behalf of the company is a thing of the past, with good reason.
“It is important that companies understand that risk management is not an add-on but an integral part of the business” the authors note on Page 62.
“The point is that a fragmented approach no longer works” they summarise on page 42.
Business travel expenditure is often a small overall expenditure for big organisations.
Selection and management of service options, therefore, have been left in the hands of line managers or travel managers.
For a very long time, it has gone undetected as acting outside of enterprise risk management processes and focus.
Smaller businesses have followed big business into this unique management process, assuming it was inclusive of risk mitigation.
All they have done is compound the original errors to become a universal system of errors.
The “travel” component of business travel is all too often a tiny part of the overall activity, especially once the bookings have been made and flights completed.
Safety based practices often substituted the word travel and replace it with “journey” which explains the expression “journey management plan” as a means of managing risk.
Risk management is by no means universally understood and practised.
“The benefits which it generates are often unseen, while the costs are all too visible” note Merna and Al-Thani on Page 41 of Corporate Risk Management.
Many individuals and providers claim to practice risk management.
Expert authors Warning and Glendon warn of such disconnects, describing them as “riscomancy cultures”.
“Such risk experts are rarely exposed personally to the risk scenarios which they assess and frequently are not involved in decisions about those risks.” They note on page 83 of their book, Managing Risk – Critical Issues for Survival and Success into the 21st Century.
Prepared for the inevitable rebuttals by such “experts” they state: “…while adopting to a lofty moral tone, the accusers may fail to declare their own vested commercial interests in the outcomes, i.e. influencing outcomes so as to protect their own jobs as employees of the bodies they represent rather than serving the best interests of their members or other people who may be affected.” Noted on Page 96.
What does all this mean?
Travel risk management is not an even distribution of 3 equal disciplines.
Travel is not the dominant player in the equation, and risk management must be part of an enterprise process, not a series of independent disciplines and practices.
If you would like to know more about the science of risk management and how travel is a smaller part of overall enterprise risk management, contact us at
A balance of risk and opportunity, in favour of opportunity and away from risk.