Business travel brings data on board

Marie Ligier | February 25, 2019

This article was written by José Luis Sanchez,  pre-sales consultant at KDS.

The arrival of new technology, and more specifically the advent of the digital era, has led to a fundamental shift in the way we book and pay for business travel. The new Holy Grail underpinning these processes is data. With the right data, companies can now keep track of where their employees are at all times. The aim is to better protect them from risks (terrorism, natural disasters, outbreaks of endemic diseases, and so on), but this precious traveller data is also very tempting to hackers and is often the target of industrial espionage. As such, the future will belong to those who can harness the power of data while ensuring it remains secure and uncompromised.

Data: a precious and coveted asset

Gathering and analysing data is now a must for any company whose employees travel abroad for work. Consolidating this information allows businesses to both optimise their travel expense management and track their employees’ trips more closely.

Nonetheless, the recent proliferation of large-scale cyber-attacks, which have featured heavily in the media in the last few months, should drive companies to scrutinise the security guarantees offered by their booking platforms when it comes to the sensitive information they carry: home addresses, bank details, mobile numbers, dates of birth, etc. This data is particularly attractive not only to hackers but also to unscrupulous competitors. For example, finding out that a high-ranking manager from a particular company is travelling abroad to a specific country could offer an insight into the company’s business strategy.

In addition to ensuring that their business travel booking tools meet the most stringent standards in terms of security and certifications, companies also have to bring them into line with the applicable regulations. These legal obligations became stricter still with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 24th May 2018.

Companies therefore need to ensure that all operators involved in managing their business travel not only have specialist expertise but can also guarantee that the data they hold remains completely secure. If not, they could find themselves at fault: if a data breach occurs and an employee’s personal information is leaked, the company must demonstrate to the employee that it acted in good faith, proving that all the necessary checks were implemented correctly upstream.

Incorporating risk into travel policies: a top priority for businesses

While keeping data secure is a prerequisite for its use, keeping people safe is also a top priority when it comes to defining travel policies. Unsafe conditions in various regions around the world and the unpredictability of terrorist attacks, environmental factors and health risks all play a significant role. For the most part, companies are therefore adopting precautionary approaches and action plans designed to guarantee the safety of their travellers.

This is especially crucial given that a manager is criminally liable from the moment one of his or her employees sets off for an assignment abroad, regardless of the length of the employee’s stay. Companies must therefore find a way to closely monitor their employees location while they are travelling.

The first step is to consolidate traveller data (hotels, flights, taxis, etc.) by requiring employees to use a unified booking platform, allowing all information to be cross-checked. A company can thus find out an employee’s precise location at any given time and access the employee’s details in order to contact them as quickly as possible should the need arise. The booking platform can be linked to software from companies offering support and/or repatriation services, a replacement hotel, emergency medical assistance, and so on.

Tools like this offer another interesting feature: a specific process can be implemented to approve certain bookings, allowing employees to not only get authorisation from a line manager approving a journey or destination, but also to inform their colleagues of a trip. For each destination, the Travel Manager can add sensitive or supplementary information such as the required vaccines, the geopolitical situation in the target country, its cultural and culinary customs, the key events happening there during the employee’s stay, etc.

By grouping together all traveller data on a single platform and keeping it secure there, companies can ensure they meet their legal obligations while also being ready to offer support to their employees at any time.