It has become fashionable for companies to throw around the term ‘duty of care' without a proper understanding of what that actually entails.” The term is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “the legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are in your care, using your services, or exposed to your activities.”
In reference to travel, Duty of Care is most often discussed on how to prepare, advise, and assist travelers pre and post-departure on a wide range of topics, from local health and safety regulations to ensure proper secure housing. The organization must demonstrate a concern for their travelers’ safety and wellbeing and do everything possible to mitigate risk and harm.
However, there is a little-discussed reciprocal side of the equation: the Duty of Loyalty of the traveler. In travel risk management, Duty of Loyalty infers that travelers should refrain from behaving in a manner that would be contrary to their organization’s best interests on a work/school-related trip.
It is the responsibility of the traveler to their organization to actively participate in trip planning, follow the emergency procedures outlined in the organizations’ policies, and use general common sense in avoiding unnecessary risks when traveling on behalf of their employers. So let’s translate this concept of Duty of Loyalty to youth travel and especially international education. These young travelers are often times leaving their home countries for the first time and are exposed to a wide variety of risks.
According to our survey of over 2,000 international students, only 30% submitted key travel data needed to keep them safe and their schools compliant with their Duty of Care. In fact, an additional 5% admitted to losing their emergency contact cards or throwing them away entirely.
The information gap is bad for everyone. Students need safety and security services, but don’t voluntarily adopt them, even when available or made mandatory. Social connections, adventure, and budget drive student travel behaviors. Safety and security are after-thoughts or “no-thoughts”—third on their totem pole of travel anxieties. When something goes wrong, the school is exposed not only to incident-related loss and expense, but disproportionate harm to reputation, and to strategic objectives to promote wide use of study abroad options. Thus, because of this information gap millions of dollars are paid in lawsuits and legal fees and inevitably higher insurance premiums.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has spotlighted failures in systems and underscored the urgent need for organizations to better understand how to provide duty of care to protect their travelers from harm and engage their travelers' duty of loyalty. As the world begins to emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns and travel starts to pick up, it is all the more imperative to address this challenge.