A session in NBTA Europe’s conference drove this point home. It used the Great Ash Cloud as a textbook example of how companies, airlines and TMCs struggled to find and accommodate their travelers.
For companies and TMCs, the first place to look is the TMC’s PNR, or reservation record. This record usually has the flight information, but often, even usually, does not have the hotel information.
Why no hotel information? Because half of all travelers do not book their hotels via the company’s TMC or online booking tool. So how is the travel manager going to know where a traveler is staying? She can’t – full stop. Gotta go to Plan B – the traveler profile.
The traveler profile should, repeat should, contain the traveler’s home phone number, alternate (i.e., family or friend) contact information, and most importantly, the traveler’s mobile number.
One European company was shocked to find that less than 20% of their travelers had a mobile number in their profile. Imagine the frustration of trying to reach those travelers. Even if the corporate e-mail system was working, and even if all those travelers had e-mail enabled phones, I don’t think you want to manage a disaster recovery effort using just that medium.
Then there is the problem of dispersion. Even if you knew where your travelers had booked their hotel stays, once a disaster hits, many of those travelers end up scattered – never reaching their hotel, or moving out on the fly.
How do you coordinate efforts to locate those travelers, get them accommodations, and in this case, alternate transportation? Remember, the airlines were prohibited from flying through much of European airspace.
Some companies organized charter buses and coaches, some booked sedans, and some had their travelers take the long way around the ash cloud, via southern Europe and northern Africa.
Google used an internal tool to collect information from their stranded travelers, and then immediately made that info visible back to those travelers. This helped many of them self-organize their next steps.
What about social media…Twitter to the rescue, anyone? Not really, although some travelers were able to find decent information on airline flights via Twitter. No company reported using it as a way to communicate with or among their travelers…but it seems like a “why not?” thing to try.
Of course, there are traveler safety and security services in use by many companies. Ijet comes immediately to mind as a major player in this market. Here are two really good documents that cover the topics of traveler tracking and risk management systems.
Well worth a look, especially if you haven’t yet made this element a part of your travel management program.
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