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Men and women travel differently, and assume different risks when traveling for business. The challenge for companies and travel managers alike is how to ensure business travelers are not only safe, but comfortable, when on the road.
Women are generally more concerned about traveling to countries that have suffered recent terrorist attacks, according to a recent report commissioned by American Express Global Business Travel from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.
More than half of the women polled (54 percent) said traveling impacts their personal health, stress and well-being, compared to 44 percent of men.
Travel managers should be attuned to the additional risks posed by travel to women, particularly when travel is taking place in an unfamiliar location.
“At GBT, we’ve seen that duty of care policies are typically gender-inclusive, but at times unique travel risks can impact genders differently and drive the direction of travel policies,” said Colin Temple, vice president and general manager of U.S. and Canada at American Express Global Business Travel. “The impact of terror on both women and men has also had an effect on traveler preferences as females have changed their preferences or willingness to travel to a greater extent (47 percent) compared to males (39 percent). Given these findings, it’s troubling that women (42.4 percent) are much more likely than men (28.2 percent) to believe that a reluctance to travel to certain countries could hurt their career.”
A quarter of female respondents said they are much more anxious about terrorism this year compared to last, as well.
While terror is a concern, more quotidian issues can cause problems for female travelers. The pressure to travel to a potentially unsafe location in return for future career advancement can lead to stress or burnout.
Booking accommodations outside of a preferred channel, too, can lead to potential safety concerns. Part of the reason travel managers build relationships with particular hotels is due to safety procedures on property.
“If you have people who aren’t booking though preferred channels, then you may not have transparency on where your travelers are,” said Rossana Martin, vice president of sales at BCD Travel. “Certainly with the larger chains, you’re going to see some differences because even if you’re staying at a Holiday Inn or Days Inn, they’re not all necessarily managed by the same group. But there’s more and more properties where you’re not having your room number called out when you check in, and things like that.”
Having travelers book through an online booking tool can provide travel managers with more detailed information that can help if something goes wrong while an employee is in the field.
“If you don’t have an online booking tool and you are a highly domestic program, it’s a problem,” said Martin. “We’re talking to a big company right now and they don’t have an online booking tool yet. You’d be shocked at how big this company is and 90 percent book offline.”
Sharing economy services also add another layer of complexity to the travel experience for women. Still, services like Uber can lead to additional location data and information who exactly is driving an employee around.
“If you get a cab in Chicago, you may not know if that driver has been checked,” said Martin. “I like the added value that I can see what the driver looks like and know the kind of car they’re in. If you’re in a city you may take more risks. We have tools that help travel managers to know what are high-risk areas and what to recommend from a safety perspective.”