Did you know that 6 out 10 travellers return home with some sort of health issue? To have the best chance of staying healthy your clients need be made aware of specific regional risks and be kept up to date with developments on the ground.
Too few TMCs provide this valuable information service to their clients, allowing those who do, to enjoy a distinct competitive advantage. At the very least, every TMC can provide their clients with our common sense checklist of dos and don’ts that can help keep them healthy while travelling.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the chances of being involved in a fatal air crash are fewer than one in a million, so most of us are pretty relaxed about travel. Perhaps that’s one reason why so many people underestimate all the other risks of going abroad – a fact highlighted by a recent study. At the end of 2014, Mantic Point invited 2,000 business travellers to complete a short risk survey. In one question they were asked to estimate the number of active global travel risk alerts. More than half capped the number at 20 whereas in reality there were 118 alerts active at that time.
More concerning was the evident lack of travel risk management policy among companies and TMCs. Fewer than half of the respondents were able to confirm that their employers or agents had any sort of policy in place. This fact alone suggests there is an interesting opportunity for TMCs to provide guidance, expertise and support to keep clients and employees safe while travelling internationally.
Of those respondents fortunate enough to receive travel risk information prior to departure, an impressive 83% thought the information was useful although only 12% reported that the information was targeted to their specific travel plans. Clearly there is enormous opportunity for TMCs to offer value-added service in this important area.
In recent years pandemics such as Sars and H5N1A (avian flu) and Ebola have caused widespread death and misery as well as disrupting the working lives of thousands of international business travellers. By having a Travel Risk Management (TRM) service in place, a TMC can help clients be aware of and prepare for certain health risks, thus reducing the likelihood of disruption and exposure to dangerous situations.
Furthermore, as demonstrated by the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, the situation on the ground can change at a moment’s notice. Thousands of international workers and their families discovered this to their cost with the sudden cancellation of flights by British Airways and other carriers. TMCs must be prepared to act extremely swiftly and decisively to ensure the safety of clients and employees.
In any event, and at no cost to you whatsoever, you can always provide clients with our simple yet effective checklist of how to stay healthy while travelling internationally. This is especially pertinent to developing countries where standards of sanitation and hygiene can be lacking. Some of these points might seem obvious but they are all too easily forgotten and highlighting them can save lives.
Five fundamental tips for your travel booker to stay healthy abroad:
- Wash hands thoroughly. Regularly using soap and clean water or a quality hand sanitizer gel is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection and disease and avoid the transfer of germs from hand to mouth. It is a little known fact that bacteria can survive for days on surfaces such as arm rests, hand rails, tables and desks.
- Drink bottled water. Unimproved water sources pose a real health risk yet are the norm in parts of Africa, Asia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and rural South America. Drinking bottled water (purchased with the seal intact) eliminates the risks posed by waterborne diseases. Alternatively, drinking water of uncertain purity should be boiled or treated with certified, well-maintained filter and/or disinfectant agent.
- Eat freshly cooked hot foods. Food poisoning and tapeworm infections are prevalent risks in developing countries. Avoiding the consumption raw meat, fish, salads or cut fruit reduces risk of infection. Peal or wash fruit with clean water prior to eating and ensure all other food is freshly prepared and hot. Most food-borne pathogens are eliminated at temperatures of 165F.
- Medical precautions. It is important to seek medical advice 4 -8 weeks prior to travel. Ensuring all recommended vaccinations are up to date and taking all prescribed medicines mitigates the risk of catching certain diseases such as yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A. There is no vaccination for malaria which remains a common disease in certain countries. Travelling and sleeping with a mosquito net and using insect repellent reduces the risk of being bitten. In some circumstances it may be advisable to carry a medical kit (and understand how to use it) and to obtain a formal physician’s letter pertaining to any prescription medicines, syringes, etc. being carried. Practising responsible sexual behaviour and avoiding unprotected sexual contact is also of paramount importance. If you suffer from allergies, wear a medical alert bracelet.
- Research. Researching the region of travel and ensuring adequate insurance coverage in advance can highlight possible risks and help establish contingency plans should the worst eventuate. The World Health Organisation website provides a wealth of relevant and up-to-date information (http://www.who.int).