Travel Posts (57)
We applaud the determination and innovative thinking of our corporate travel risk teams during the Immersive Crisis Management Training (ICMT) segment of the 2014 Global Congress on Travel Risk Management. They hit the ground running and successfully took on two devastating crises, the Tsunami on Jaeson Island and the Coup in Tierra Linda. Not only did they quickly execute damage control and protect personnel and assets but also developed policies to help the companies they represented in the scenarios deal with similar events in the future.
Team 1, sponsored by Griffin Global Group and made up of representatives from CGG, DistributionNOW, Griffin, Marathon Oil, Rowan Companies, Pacific Drilling, and Technip, earned the highest overall score and went home with the Crisis Management Gold Award. Team 7, made up of representatives from EuropAssistance USA, Harland Clark Holdings Group, Kroger, NASA, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of Houston—Downtown, earned the highest score in Tsunami on Jaeson Island and won the Environmental Disaster Management Award. Team 3, sponsored by Travel & Transport and made up of representatives from AllState, Hill-Rom, KBR, and Travel & Transport, earned the highest score in Coup in Tierra Linda and won the Political Disaster Management Award.
We’d like to issue a special thanks to our facilitators, subject-matter experts who both advised and evaluated our ICMT teams in all aspects of travel disruption and crisis management:
We'd also like to thank our alliances, all of whom are champions of safe and secure travel:
By popular demand (already!), ICMTs will return next year at the 2015 Global Congress with all-new scenarios, videos, and additional features. For those who walked away with either a scenario win or the Crisis Management Gold, come back next year to protect your title! For the rest of you, 2015 is your chance to unseat the current champions and claim the title of best crisis management team. This exercise will be limited to twenty teams of eight personnel each; many seats have already been reserved, so if ICMTs would benefit you and/or your team, don’t miss your chance to participate!
Since December 2013, when the first Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) case is believed to have occurred in Guinea, the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have struggled with the region's first known EVD outbreak. After identifying the outbreak in March 2014, the situation improved during April, when disease activity was contained in Liberia and transmission declined dramatically in Guinea. However, persistent transmission in rural southeast Guinea in May led to the first sustained transmission in Sierra Leone and a second outbreak in Liberia. Since that time, cases have steadily risen - particularly in Liberia - and have spread to two nearby nations - Nigeria and Senegal - despite attempted containment measures at international borders and points of entry. Traveler and consumer confidence has greatly diminished in West Africa. As affected governments and international health agencies struggle to contain the EVD outbreak, the continent faces the threat of a declining tourism industry and loss in its appeal as a rich venue of emerging markets.
Although the risk of actually contracting EVD remains extremely low for most travelers and expatriates, serious ancillary risks have created significant travel and business disruptions -particularly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone - for which many nations now recommend against nonessential travel. Other concerned African countries have taken additional measures to attempt to prevent importation of the disease by refusing entry to any traveler who has been in countries experiencing EVD outbreak within the previous 21 days.
Specific concerns are two-fold. The first concern is the rapidly increasing number of cases, which appear to be undeterred by extensive attempts at control measures (e.g., intense world health response; quarantine and isolation of confirmed patients, suspected cases, and contacts of those confirmed and suspected cases; treatment of the infected; intense screening activity at borders and points of entry/exit; application of experimental treatments; etc.), coupled with the continued circulation of rumors among local populations that medical practitioners are actually seeking to harm those at risk or infected, causing the sick to hide, flee, or even riot in some cases, thereby spreading the disease - potentially across borders. The second concern is that the operational and travel threat matrix in West Africa has increased exponentially, as those operating in the region may encounter border closures, strict security and health screenings when attempting to cross borders, a lack of goods and services as personnel - especially healthcare professionals - vacate for what they believe are "safer" areas, and the potential for quarantine. Additionally, many global and regional commercial air carriers have begun to suspend travel to the most affected areas. Recent guidelines provided by global health authorities and international partners, as well as nations who have implemented internal EVD protocols, have eased medical evacuations some, but air carrier service for providers, as well as intensive permissions necessary for transporting patients, are still a hindrance in many areas.
West Africa EVD Outbreak
As of Sept. 5, international authorities have reported at least 3,970 EVD cases and more than 2,030 EVD deaths in West Africa. These include 823 EVD cases and 522 deaths in Guinea, including 621 confirmed cases; 1,839 EVD cases and 1,051 EVD deaths in Liberia, including 606 confirmed cases; 1,292 EVD cases and 452 EVD deaths in Sierra Leone, including 1,174 confirmed cases; 21 EVD cases and seven deaths in Nigeria, including 16 confirmed cases; and one confirmed case in Dakar, Senegal. As these figures demonstrate, the focus of EVD activity has shifted to Liberia and Sierra Leone since May, and persistent disease activity has finally led to the international exportation of infections to additional countries.
Whereas disease activity during the first wave of the outbreak March-May was centered in rural areas of southeast Guinea and northwest Liberia - with a significant focus in the city of Conakry with epidemiological links to southeast Guinea - disease activity has now shifted to include significant urban centers such as Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia, where quarantine facilities and treatment centers have been erected to render management options to a growing number of cases. Additionally, the Nigerian foci in Lagos and Port Harcourt - both populous centers of business - via the travel of infected individuals highlight the enormous challenges to the tracing of all contacts of potentially infected individuals and the prolonged isolation of potentially exposed individuals to prevent further spread of disease. In some locations, armed military escorts have been called upon to accompany the transport of high-risk patients to quarantine centers and to ensure the safety of healthcare personnel at these locations.
Media have reported significant numbers of healthcare workers abandoning their posts due to EVD concerns. For example, nurses at JFK Hospital in Monrovia called a strike Sept. 3 over lack of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Although the Nigerian Ministry of Health was able to end the long-standing physician strike in Nigeria in an effort to address staffing needs in the wake of hundreds of isolated patient contacts and other clinical requirements, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have not been as fortunate. The infection of several prominent physicians volunteering with aid organizations in the course of this crisis - as well as multiple local national doctors, nurses, and ancillary staff - has led to several violent incidents targeting local government offices and hospitals treating EVD patients. Increased security has been provided to facilities and towns to discourage protests and mass gatherings, which can also facilitate disease spread, and governmental and non-governmental officials have promised increased protection through more personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleansing materials. However, after a UN staff member contracted EVD and necessitated medical evacuation to Germany, the WHO removed more than 60 staff members from Sierra Leone, which has hampered efforts there to accurately diagnose and adequately treat the disease. Many aid organizations are calling for global assistance from any provider with expertise in infectious disease processes and handling special virus samples, as fatigued crews and staff shortages not only underserve the afflicted but create room for error while working and may be partially a cause of the heightened rate of healthcare worker infections, despite careful protocols.
The shortages are not only affecting healthcare workers. Shortages of food and clean water are increasing dangerously due to a number of secondary economic effects: businesses closing due to the outbreak or the repatriation of expatriate workers, farmers being unable to tend to their crops, and cargo vessels refusing to dock at ports where the virus may be present. Disease control efforts at international borders further restrict the delivery of food and other products. Economic recovery in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone may be slow, even when EVD is finally controlled - which experts have projected to take at least six to nine months.
These infections have also prompted several foreign missions, including the US Peace Corps, to suspend operations in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and to repatriate personnel operating in the region. Other organizations, such as mining, extraction, and financial organizations, have reduced staff to essential personnel or have vacated entirely. Nigeria may be able to cope better due to its more fully established infrastructure and more coordinated response efforts, but international authorities have expressed concern that the cluster of EVD cases in Port Harcourt could surge following that index patient's many contacts with coworkers, friends, and family members. So far, few nations have recommended against travel to Nigeria. However, media have reported that some hospitals in Lagos are rejecting patients with non-EVD-related complaints due to fears that healthcare personnel may be unknowingly exposed to EVD.
In both scope and scale, this outbreak has become the largest recorded EVD outbreak in history. Previous EVD outbreaks largely occurred in extremely remote areas that prevented the geographic spread of disease activity. However, this outbreak has affected nearly the entirety of three neighboring countries, including significant areas of urban and peri-urban transmission. Prior to this outbreak, the largest known Ebola epidemic occurred in Uganda in 2000, when officials reported 425 confirmed, probable, or suspected cases. In this epidemic, though, officials have identified nearly 4,000 suspected, probable, and confirmed EVD cases, and some experts anticipate up to 20,000 cases before the end of the outbreak.
One of the primary explanations for the severity of EVD activity in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone relates to widespread community resistance to disease control measures. This outbreak is the first known incidence of EVD activity in West Africa, and - unlike populations living in countries such as Uganda or the DRC - communities in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia were largely unfamiliar with the measures necessary to control this disease. Even after more than six months of disease activity and response efforts, local populations remain suspicious of authorities. In at least one instance, a community rioted when officials sprayed disinfectant, because local residents believed that they were being sprayed with the disease and intentionally infected. Although many teams are making headway with cultural relations and communications, it is generally accepted that more connection is needed for wider messaging. Recently, the government of Uganda and the African Union had both pledged assistance in durable goods, personnel, and financing to aid in control measures. As Uganda has vast experience in EVD outbreaks, this may assist quite a bit in cultural sensitivity and processing.
Many communities are also deeply distrusting of international medical teams. In some cases, local communities blame these teams for bringing the disease into their country; at other times, communities merely believe that infected individuals will receive better care at home. In either case, media have reported many instances in which community members have forcibly removed confirmed or probable EVD patients from isolation, or patients have eloped quarantine to return home. For example, the EVD cluster in Lagos, Nigeria was caused by an EVD-infected traveler, who may have been seeking more advanced medical care outside Liberia, according to his wife. Furthermore, the EVD cluster in Port Harcourt, Nigeria was caused by a companion of that traveler, who fled quarantine in Lagos to seek care elsewhere.
Unrelated to the cases in West Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) notified the WHO of a confirmed case of EVD on Aug. 26. In the midst of a hemorrhagic gastroenteritis outbreak not caused by EVD in or near the Equateur Province, the Ministry of Health was able to delineate that a separate strain of EVD had, in fact, occurred in a woman from Ikanamongo Village near Boende and spread to family members and healthcare workers who were caring for her. In total, 58 suspected and confirmed cases and 31 deaths from EVD have been reported as of Sept. 4. Experts from the DRC and WHO have isolated the area, and other expert aid partners have been called to manage the outbreak, which so far appears confined to that specific area.
With disease projections continuing to increase in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the risk profile for most travelers and expatriates remains unchanged: individuals should strongly consider deferring nonessential travel to these areas. The risk of EVD is highest for healthcare workers, family members caring for ill patients, those attending traditional funerals or burials, and the consumption or proximity to processing primate or bat bushmeat, which has since been ruled illegal in the affected areas. However, even individuals not involved in such activities - for whom EVD risk is low - are at risk of increasingly severe healthcare shortages and increasing potential for civil unrest in disease-affected areas. Furthermore, individuals requiring medical evacuation, even for non-EVD-related issues, face extreme challenges when leaving outbreak zones.
Disease response efforts continue in Lagos and River State, Nigeria. Impacts to travelers or expatriates in these areas should be nominal, and the risk of spread outside of these areas is generally low to moderate given the current climate. The one case identified in Dakar, Senegal, with multiple contacts under surveillance, should not pose any significant risk to travelers or expatriates. However, the general reaction of other countries to nations having had EVD has so far been significant. The WHO has still not instituted any travel or trade restrictions on any of the affected countries, but many countries have implemented enhanced health screenings at borders or international airports and restricted flights or border crossings from affected countries. Individuals and organizations should review risk tolerance levels in anticipation of sudden changes in security and travel impact. Furthermore, individuals in or near EVD-affected areas should practice diligent personal health precautions, keeping in mind the following EVD-specific information:
• Although EVD is considered "highly contagious," it is not highly transmissible. The risk of transmission among people not involved in healthcare or funeral settings is small.Local hospitals in the three most affected areas are at overcapacity, and personnel operating in the area and requiring nonemergency care may consider soliciting provider care at a hotel in lieu of a clinic. Many times, intravenous fluids, respiratory therapy, and other types of care can be administered by healthcare professionals in quality hotels. However, durable medical equipment, fluids, and medications are in short supply.
» Healthcare workers currently operating in the area are most at risk, since EVD is passed through blood, organs, tissues, bodily fluids, and close personal contact with infected individuals.
• Occupations with personnel at risk of trauma need to consider their proximity to appropriate care facilities and the possibility of exposure to EVD or other diseases while being treated.
• Managers charged with site safety and health should be able to recognize the signs of EVD and other hemorrhagic fevers: headache behind the eyes, flu-like symptoms, high fevers, diarrhea, and petechiae - a red or purple "rash" that may appear under areas with pressure.
» Bleeding, which may only be a late symptom in EVD and also appears in a number of other infections, cannot be relied upon for identification.
• Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and water may reduce the incidence of disease. If soap and water is unavailable, use of a hand sanitizer with at least 60-percent alcohol is an adequate substitution.Do not consume "bushmeat" or the meat from any primate, rodent, dog, or bat in the affected areas.
» Social distancing and avoidance of crowded venues may reduce risk of disease transmission, and in some areas, it is now mandated.
• Be aware of increasing travel disruptions related to this outbreak
» Plan ahead for increased processing times at borders and international airports as countries implement health screenings of travelers from affected areas.
» Consider deferring nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone due to infrastructure difficulties and significant travel and medical evacuation restrictions.
» Be very aware of recent updates in travel restrictions and take these into your risk threshold matrix.
» Consider the potential supply chain difficulty as borders become restricted, inspections become more thorough, and transit times become more cumbersome. Some goods and services may take longer than others to arrive.
» Check with your insurance provider and assistance/response company prior to your departure to understand your level(s) of service, their policies and protocols, and their threshold for rapid decision making. Maintain contact with these partners during your trip and keep abreast of the current information for your decision making.
Bear in mind that some restrictions may not apply only to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Some West African nations may be seen as "at risk" and treated with similar precautions of screening by other nations upon arrival. Certain facilities and laboratories throughout the world have been designated by their respective countries to receive and isolate any "suspected" EVD cases upon screening at points of entry. Special guidance and precautions have been sent out through many health ministries regarding the signs and symptoms of the disease, as well as the potential areas of exposures. There are a various other diseases that may mimic the initial phases of EVD. Fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, aches, and fatigue are seen in a plethora of West African ailments, including malaria, dengue, influenza, and others. Taking appropriate precautions against these diseases will lessen your chance of being identified and potentially quarantined by health personnel when entering or exiting a country.
There currently remain no definitive preventive vaccines or treatment options for EVD. Although recent research and efforts into several unique pharmaceuticals have shown promise in nonhuman primates and have been used experimentally during this crisis, it remains to be seen whether or not these are effective or safe treatments or preventive measures. Data from the field during an epidemic - which lacks supporting data or controls - is extremely difficult to assess. Numerous variables may account for the apparent success or failure of such an agent in any given individual. For example, the administration and subsequent recovery of two American patients from EVD after receiving one such medication may be due to the effectiveness of the medicine, may be coincidental, or may also be dependent on other factors. Likewise, the death of a Spanish missionary after receiving the same experimental treatment may or may not be indicative of that drug's efficacy. Conclusions as to the effectiveness of these drugs are extremely premature at this juncture.
Despite a travel management company’s (TMCs) daily efforts to create the best possible travel program for your business some bookings still go astray.
Sometimes travelers won’t book through your preferred channel or they’ll book their own choice of hotel over the internet. When this happens, gaps start to appear in your data and your reporting.
While many corporates with managed travel programs have mandated policies in place, leakage from loss of transactions through your preferred booking channels or supplier can cost your company significantly over the long term.
The Travel Landscape
Almost all corporate travel programs, no matter how large or small, will experience leakage at one point or other. With so many channels now available for travelers to book their flights, accommodation or car hire through, there is always the risk of non-compliant bookings.
At face value, airline or hotel websites can be appealing to a traveler with simple travel needs. There are the perceived benefits of convenience and simplicity, and of course, the perception of ‘lowest rates’. Employees may think they are doing the right thing for their company by bookings themselves if they spot a cheap deal. But by booking outside of policy, the overall cost consequence for a travel program can be significant if leakage is widespread among employees.
What are the Impacts?
Leakage affects the overall performance of your travel program in many ways starting right from the booking stage.
You’ll Pay More in the End
An in-policy booking consisting of flights, hotel and car hire made with FCm, would attract a single booking fee with your travel manager. However a traveler who books flights through FCm, books their own hotel over the internet and then calls a car hire company direct to organize a rental car would more than likely attract three different booking or service fees. And with online travel websites charging anywhere from $4 up to $30 per booking and some suppliers also charging service fees, corporates with leakage to non-preferred booking channels often face a higher fee structure than those customers using a single supplier as part of a consolidated TMC-managed travel program.
If you have booked over the internet and your travel plans change, you generally not only forego flights and room nights, but incur the cost of having to book and pay for them all over again. At the very least, you will probably have to pay penalty fees. And don’t forget the soft cost of your time spent trawling the Internet to find what you believe to be the best rates. Time is money and it all adds up.Book with a TMC or a TMC-provided online booking tool and there is less room for error. FCm has the ability to hold seats, which is generally not an option if you book via the Internet, itineraries are then audited by our consultants before your booking is confirmed and payment made.
There are also cost implications for your future hotel or airline negotiations. If your company has not met volume agreements with your preferred hotel supplier or airline, rate discounts may not be as forthcoming or generous in subsequent contract negotiations.
If leakage is occurring because employees are booking through non-compliant channels (i.e. over the internet or direct with suppliers), spend data is more challenging to reconcile and use for big picture program analysis. It is far easier to control what you can see and capture. If you’re lacking insight into traveler records and spend patterns, your knowledge of your travel expenditure can be compromised.
Supplier Negotiations are Affected
The more knowledge you have of your data the more power you have to negotiate with suppliers for competitive deals. Suppliers look favorably on companies that not only have volume to offer but are able to prove loyalty to their preferred suppliers. If you’re experiencing 30 percent leakage on your hotel program, a company with a total of 11,000 room nights per annum is in effect negotiating a discount for only 7,700 room nights which would have a significant impact on your contracted rate deals.
Expense Reconciliation takes Longer
Bookings made through non-compliant channels mean your accounts department is spending more time manually chasing traveler receipts, itineraries and copies of either, as well as processing receipts from different suppliers. A consolidated travel program with a TMC provides enhanced data in a consolidated format.
Traveler Safety and Security Compromised
If you don’t have visibility into your traveler bookings, it can make it difficult to track where your employees are quickly. If 100 percent of your bookings are made via your TMC or a TMC provided online booking tool – you’ll have one point of contact in an emergency. Speed and efficiency are critical during a crisis so it’s essential you have a full understanding of where your employees are at all times.
Enhancing the way you book travel, improving compliance, as well as your attitudes to travel will help mitigate booking leakage. There needs to be a common mindset, and educating employees is a crucial part of this. TMCs help you proactively inform your travelers and travel bookers regarding:
Control Leakage by Curbing Rogue Bookings
Zero in on hotel Bookings
If leakage is occurring because travelers are booking hotels over the web as a last minute decision, ask your TMC if they have an online accommodation website your travelers can use, which offers integrated reporting. If leakage is occurring regularly in a particular city find out if there are broader issues such as inadequate accommodation standards or availability issues.
Make it convenient
According to a Global Business Travel Association study, the most often-cited reason for not using approved channels was inconvenience (36%), followed by the hotel being a last-minute decision (30%). Almost as many out-of-policy travelers (25%) said booking through preferred hotel channels took too long.
Keep an eye on key offenders
Pay close attention to new recruits (they may not be across company policy), tech savvy travelers (tendency to book over the web) and managers (who think they’re above company policy) to stem leakage problems.
Focus on technology
Utilize the latest technology for travel apps, online booking tools and expense reconciliation. This ensures your systems are quick and easy, which is what most travelers are looking for.
Business resiliency contemplates all hazards across the extended enterprise, including operations, people, goods and intellectual property. To achieve business resiliency throughout an organization, leaders must have the tools to anticipate and monitor threats, and stand ready to respond to disruptions and opportunities in real time. This Business Resiliency Checklist reflects the Key Process Areas to be defined, monitored and managed in order for an organization to be truly resilient.
Worldwide phenomenon Airbnb (and others like VRBO and HomeAway), the website that allows people to rent out lodging spaces (typically privately-owned residences), has established itself as a disruptive force in the hospitality industry. It allows travelers to enjoy unprecedented flexibility at substantially reduced costs, and via a proven profile rating system has earned itself a reputation for reliability and security compared to traditional rental boards and sites like Craigslist. Despite these benefits, however, Airbnb is potentially a riskier lodging choice for business travelers than conventional hotels. The added regulations and de facto security features of a hotel mitigate some of the issues that Airbnb users may encounter; as a relatively new and unregulated sub-industry, Airbnb relies primarily on the professionalism of private hosts for quality control. Here are three things that employers and employees might consider before using Airbnb for business travel:
1. Accommodations may not meet reasonable health standards. While the reputation rating system on Airbnb appears to serve as a powerful deterrent to renting out unclean properties, it can still happen, and hosts typically aren't required by law to meet the same standards of cleanliness as a hotel.
2. Accommodations may not meet reasonable safety standards. While hotels are required by law to install and maintain safety features like smoke detectors and fire escapes, many private residences—especially older ones—do not have these features.
A new generation of Millennial employees (21 to 30 year olds) is poised to become a stronghold in the workforce—and they are bringing their intensive technology habits with them. A proliferation of consumer and business-focused mobile travel apps and websites designed to meet the needs of this new generation is taking its place alongside traditional corporate online booking tools and consumer travel websites. As a result, those Millennial travelers, along with more experienced colleagues who have also adopted intensive ties to technology, have more options than ever when it comes to searching and booking travel. They are using these options regardless of whether such options are approved by their corporations or not.
While the procurement practices that have become a standard part of managed travel over the past decade remain firmly in place, forward-thinking corporate travel managers are responding to these changing consumer and tech forces by looking for
new ways to connect with their travelers and ensure that corporate policies and tools continue to serve traveler needs as well as corporate needs.
To that end, the concept of "traveler centricity"—a focus on the needs and wants of the corporate traveler in order to ensure those needs are being met—has come to the forefront in the travel manager toolbox. "It's our responsibility to find the right solutions—solutions that our travelers want to use," said Doug Weeks, director of global sourcing at consulting company Booz & Company.
This white paper will explore the importance of traveler centricity, as well as highlight a variety of approaches travel managers can use today to increase traveler satisfaction and drive desired behaviors.
Download the whitepaper here.
Bottom Line Up Front:
• The Twitter hashtag #MH17 has been tweeted or retweeted more than 3.3 million times in the last eight days; within hours of the tragedy, cyber criminals joined the Twitter campaign • Criminals are inserting malicious code into links at the end of tweets mentioning #MH17; most of these links use a .tk extension, which should be avoided • Twitter is well-suited for the spread of malware due to its use on mobile devices that make it hard to see a full link extension before clicking on it • As journalists and others increasingly find information via Twitter rather than reporting it via Twitter, the risk of computer viruses will increase as well • Criminals are also setting up fake Facebook pages for MH17 victims with the goal of spreading malware and soliciting donations from sympathetic viewers.
• The Twitter hashtag #MH17 has been tweeted or retweeted more than 3.3 million times in the last eight days; within hours of the tragedy, cyber criminals joined the Twitter campaign
• Criminals are inserting malicious code into links at the end of tweets mentioning #MH17; most of these links use a .tk extension, which should be avoided
• Twitter is well-suited for the spread of malware due to its use on mobile devices that make it hard to see a full link extension before clicking on it
• As journalists and others increasingly find information via Twitter rather than reporting it via Twitter, the risk of computer viruses will increase as well
• Criminals are also setting up fake Facebook pages for MH17 victims with the goal of spreading malware and soliciting donations from sympathetic viewers.
While the likely surface-to-air missile that brought down Malaysia Air Flight 17 traveled at more than three times the speed of sound, criminals moved at cyber speed to exploit the intense global interest in the tragedy.
Following the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), cyber criminals were quick to take advantage of the hashtag #MH17, used to consolidate discussion of the ongoing disaster on Twitter. Criminals entered the stream of conversation armed with links embedded with malicious code or malware. Readers looking for more information on news topics like MH17 are likely to click on links on Twitter and Facebook for two compelling reasons:
Social media encourages sharing and fosters a sense of familiarity even with strangers, lowering our guard and making us far more likely to open a link as we get caught up in the torrent of updates.
Twitter and Facebook are both incredibly popular on mobile devices that encourage a quick-click mentality without the hover feature that allows you to see the full URL before doing so.
Within hours of the downing of MH17, cyber criminals had set up several Indonesian-language Twitter feeds incorporating the newly created #MH17. The tweets and retweets from these accounts included URLs that ended with .tk, a domain extension notorious for social media scams and outright malware. When readers clicked on the link to get more information about the fast breaking event, their computers or smartphones connected with one of two IP (internet protocol) addresses that contained ZeuS/ZBOT and PE_SALITY malware. These viruses can steal .SCE and .EXE files from infected devices, a serious security violation.
Since MH17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine, #MH17 has been tweeted or retweeted 3.3 million times and counting, and it’s nearly impossible for the average user to know what links are suspect, especially when they are shortened using the Bitly URL shortening tool. A good rule of thumb is to ignore any link that ends in the .tk extension (.tk denotes the country code top-level domain of the tiny island nation of Tokelau in the Pacific Ocean). Not all .tk extensions are bad, of course, but enough are to warrant extra caution.
MH17 is only the latest tragedy to be exploited by cyber criminals. The hashtag #MH370, for the still-missing Malaysia Airlines flight, was also a tempting target for criminals, who used the same embedded link tactic. For an example of the scale we are talking about, #MH370 was tweeted and retweeted over 4 million times in the first weeks of the search, and is still being used heavily up to now. The rush for information leaves journalists and regular users alike at high risk not only for misinformation but for actual computer infection—another reason to pause before clicking on links not associated with well-respected news outlets, which is a shame since much of the power of Twitter and Facebook is their ability to bypass traditional channels of information.
Any breaking news now generates its own hashtag, making it possible for users to follow the issue across the world. It also generates a target-rich environment for scammers and criminals who don't need to devise clever ways to get us to click; they just use the hashtag. And it's not just tragic aviation event hashtags drawing extraordinary numbers and interest; #Gaza has been tweeted and retweeted over 6 million times in the last two weeks, and #WorldCup was mentioned over 10 million times this month.
The use of malware in tweets containing popular hashtags will increase but it's not the only way criminals in the cyber world exploit real-world tragedies. As soon as the MH17 passenger manifest was released, scammers set up several Facebook pages "dedicated" to specific victims, including several young children from Australia. Visitors to the sites were blasted with banner ads and click-bait ads. The over-the-top ads mean the scammers are simply trying to boost click rates and increase their ad revenue. However, far worse are the tragedy-related sites or links that either inject malware directly, or direct the visitor to another site teeming with viruses. Anti-virus software is always a necessity but it can't keep up with the daily evolutions in malware.
As social media evolves from a medium where people repeat existing information to a place where people seek to disseminate information (confirmed or unconfirmed), the risk of infected links will evolve as well, matching the trend lines step by step. It remains to be seen if social media malware safeguards will evolve in equal measure, ensuring that the power of social media is not weakened by its open and sharing nature.
How well do your employees follow company guidelines for business travel? Are there areas in your travel program where improved compliance could save you more?
As demand for air travel and accommodation increases and market conditions continue to change, traveler compliance will become even more important for corporates keen to maintain control of their travel spend.
Compliance however, has a broader focus than just being about whether or not your employees are following policy guidelines. Compliance also relates to metric and culture, both of which can help to generate travel cost savings in different ways. If you can't measure how compliant your travelers are, or you're unsure how to enhance your corporate culture, improving your company's overall travel performance and ultimately your bottom line could be a challenge.
What's the value of compliance?
FCm research shows that by optimizing your travel policy design and improving traveler compliance via a travel management company (TMC) provided online booking tool, corporates can save more than 30 percent on their travel spend. A lack of compliance among your traveling employees can result in significant 'missed savings' through unauthorized and/or non-compliant bookings for air, hotel and ground travel, which over the course of a year, or even a few months, can significantly erode potential savings.
When it comes to improving traveler compliance corporates need to know what areas of their travel policy are capable of delivering maximum return for best practice traveler behavior. While the drivers will be different for every company, there are a few common policy items that can be used to measure how compliance impacts travel spend including:
An FCm study showed that companies could save on average up to 72 percent on the cost of their tickets by booking 21 days or more in advance of their departure date. Although these savings are dependent on the time of travel and which airline you fly with, significant savings can be made by encouraging your travelers to book as far in advance as their business travel allows.
Make sure your policy has clear recommendations or a mandate around restricted airfares. If your travelers know their plans aren't going to change, encourage the use of restricted airfares for both the inbound and outbound flights or if they have to make flight changes in the afternoon, they should be booking a restricted fare for the outbound leg and flexible ticket for the inbound leg. High levels of compliance and understanding of this policy item can save companies around 10 percent of their air spend.
Properly educate your travelers on what is expected of them when it comes to booking through preferred suppliers and your business will have a greater chance of converting negotiated discounts and preferred supplier pricing into actual savings. Your supplier preferences need to be clearly articulated and reiterated on a regular basis to your employees.
How well do your employees follow your policies for class of air travel for domestic, short-haul and long-haul travel? And what does your policy recommend if your preferred hotel or room category is unavailable? Corporates need to have clear policies for travel class, category and preferred suppliers in the event that preferences are unavailable or there are issues with delayed approval processes.
Mandate that all of your bookings go through the one TMC and you can actively improve compliance by increasing the monitoring, tracking, visibility and accountability that comes from the expertise of having one travel manager to oversee your activity.
There is a range of strategies that corporates can use to boost company-wide compliance. These range from policy consulting, traveler training and education, incentive based rewards for compliant behavior, TMC provided online booking tools and data analysis designed to identify opportunities for missed savings (e.g. exception reporting).
FCm's online booking tool has a robust best fare of day capability, which captures missed savings and traveler details when non-compliant fares are booked. Best practice booking behavior and travel times can also deliver savings.
If non-compliance is an ongoing issue, corporates can adopt any number of strategies from up-front traveler education, information sessions or for repeat offenders written warnings, the circulation of repeat offender lists and or individual accountability for repeated policy offences. If there is no redress for out-of-policy bookings, your policy has no impact and no authority. FCm can help you establish a strategy for policy enforcement that is tailored to suit your corporate culture.
The Balancing Act
To generate additional savings through improved levels of compliance, corporates should try to achieve a good balance between enforcement and traveler needs.
If there is an area where you are having serious compliance issues it may be due to more emotive circumstances e.g. one of your preferred hotels may not be conveniently located or does not meet traveler standards for safety, cleanliness and amenities. While aggressive compliance enforcement may help to achieve your financial objectives, it may limit your company's ability to attract and retain top performers that are used to a more flexible approach to travel policies. FCm suggests working with your travel manager to determine how policy enforcement is best approached for your organization.
- Define your travel policy.
- Make your policy manageable and measurable.
- Communicate and educate.
- Promote compliance through booking processes.
- Leverage TMC intelligence.
In 2014, we’ve seen epidemics and pandemics portrayed extensively in film and theorized about in mass media. Despite the low fatality rates associated with real-life outbreaks like modern-day H1N1, pandemics are typically portrayed via diseases with a devastating fatality rate. Just when we’re ready to chalk up the exceptionally high body counts of the plagues in Contagion and 24 Days Later to sensationalism, a viral specter from our recent past has reappeared in force.
Ebola has reclaimed headlines this summer; the infamous pestilence is sowing turmoil and death in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Characterized by especially painful symptoms and fatality rates up to ninety percent, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) has no known cure, recalling the dark days of the 1918 flu pandemic and the Black Death.
The modern world first encountered Ebola in 1976, when an outbreak in Zaire infected 318 people and killed 280. Since then, the virus erupted once more in Zaire, once in Uganda, six times in Gabon, and nine times in the Congo, infecting 1,168 people and killing 869. In 2014, Ebola has infected 528 people and killed 337.
This filovirus is spread when a human comes into contact with bodily fluids from an infected human or animal (most commonly a monkey or bat). Symptoms consist of severe manifestations of flu-like symptoms followed by agitation of the central nervous system, which can lead to seizures and coma. Many infected people also bleed from mucous membranes and puncture sites. Death occurs due to septic shock.
Travelers can keep a close eye on the status of Ebola outbreaks by subscribing to ProMED Mail, an internet-based early-warning system for outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging diseases. Also, companies like FrontierMEDEX offer customized travel health packages that include pre-deployment travel information and advice, first aid kits, and bite prevention packs. This is especially recommended for those visiting sub-Saharan Africa in the months ahead.
"Disruption" has become the buzzword of the decade for technology startups. Entrepreneurs take aim at existing markets every day with ideas designed to uproot and redefine their industries. But some of the most innovative disrupters are having trouble bringing their ideas to a place where disruption is generally unwelcome: the airport.
Car sharing services such as Zipcar, Car2Go, and Getaround and ride sharing services such as UberX, Lyft, and Zimride are changing the game in ground transportation. By using smartphone apps to connect drivers who have open seats in their vehicles with passengers who need rides, the ride sharing movement is reducing traffic and fuel usage. Similarly, by planting a network of available cars throughout a city and allowing consumers to access the vehicles for a fee, car sharing makes it more practical for consumers to forego vehicle ownership altogether. In 2014 alone, these companies have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital financing. Many consumers prefer these services to taxi cabs or other traditional methods of ground transportation because they are more convenient, affordable, and in some cases more environmentally friendly. As with taxi cabs, airports are natural hubs of activity for car sharing and ride sharing services.
Notwithstanding the rising tidal wave of demand, most airports have yet to develop a workable approach to the unique legal and logistical challenges presented by car sharing and ride sharing services. Instead, airports are prohibiting these companies from picking up or dropping off passengers at their terminals. At a recent conference of in-house airport lawyers, several representatives from some of North America's largest aviation hubs expressed serious concerns about these services. One attendee suggested setting up "stings" by using the popular ride sharing apps to order rides from the airport and arresting the drivers for lack of taxi cab certification when they arrive.
However, non-airport regulators are beginning to appreciate that ride sharing services are not cab companies and should not be subject to the same regulations. In September of 2013, California became the first state to provide a regulatory framework for Transportation Network Companies ("TNCs"), defined by the California Public Utilities Commission ("CPUC") as any organization that "provides prearranged transportation services for compensation using an online-enabled application (app) or platform to connect passengers with drivers using their personal vehicles." (See CPUC Decision 13-09-045.) The Illinois House of Representatives followed suit last week when it passed HB 4075, which seeks to implement a set of regulations specific to ride sharing services.
With mounting political and consumer support for car sharing and ride sharing, airports are under increased pressure to adopt policies regulating these services instead of prohibiting them. Developing practical, sustainable policies that address issues such as airport congestion, service monitoring, and revenue sharing may prove to be a more profitable and efficient solution than denying airport access to car sharing and ride sharing companies.
Technological solutions such as geofencing may solve many of the problems related to airport regulation of TNCs because car sharing and ride sharing companies typically connect with consumers through smartphones. Geofencing would allow airports to set up a virtual perimeter around the airport that would trigger a notification (and corresponding fee payment) every time a TNC driver arrives at the airport to pick up or drop off a passenger. Additionally, airports could coordinate with car sharing companies to designate paid parking areas for vehicles within the car sharing network. By tapping into the technological platforms TNCs have already developed, airports would have the benefit of adding streamlined sources of revenue without the burden of developing their own monitoring and networking solutions.
There is another reason why airports may want to take advantage of such innovative solutions rather than "killing the cow." The fact that airports are predominantly government entities means legal pressures could also play a significant role in the efforts by car sharing and ride sharing companies to break into the airport market. Unlike private actors, government entities like airports owe constitutional rights to businesses. Airports that maintain outright bans on car sharing and ride sharing services may face challenges under the Dormant Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, among other sources of law. The federal statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides litigants with a private right of action for damages resulting from a deprivation of federal constitutional or statutory rights.
Thus, airports may profit by shifting focus away from how to exclude car sharing and ride sharing services and towards how to include and regulate these companies.