Beware the Fine Print
If like most, you base your overall assessment of a country or city based on some-kind of threat rating then you need to read this article before blindly basing all your business decisions upon such tools.
This article will address the development and reporting of security or travel safety threats and how they are communicated. Specifically, the collection of data, affected audience demographics, aggregated indicators, qualifiers and the real threats revealed.
By the end of this article you will have immediate knowledge that can be applied to your current risk analysis methods, tools and services to ensure a more accurate and relevant approach for your business needs.
These facts must be relevant to the business and the affected assets and not a standardized collection of threat topics representing the mean average of the world’s problems.
This data must also be reported in support of the final threat/risk analysis. Rarely do end users ever see or are offered these facts but they provide greater insight into the effectiveness of the final number or score and often highlight weaknesses with the assessment process. Possibly the reason they are rarely released.
Data such as accidents per capita, delays per route, illnesses per demographics, victims of localized crime, total loss per event and time loss per disruption are all key requirements to any travel threat spectrum.
The data alone is insufficient unless related directly to the audience in which the analysis is created for or those directly affected. Local inhabitants and their risk categories are seldom shared by that of travellers, expats and other visitors to a location.
If your intention or requirement is to present an accurate index of threats or risks for travellers, then your data must show an index or scale as to how/how much they are affected.
While these groups may have further diversify, it must exclusively show the threat and impact as it relates to that demographic and that demographic alone, in all sectors.
High cholesterol may be a national issue but will it have any great affect on travellers to that location? Hotel incidents may not make local newspapers but have a significant impact upon travellers and visitors to the area. Terrorism kills thousands of people every year but only a handful of travellers are ever affected, often indirectly. The Mumbai attack was far less successful than many other terrorist attacks in the country but because so many foreigners were affected, it had a far greater audience and “news worthiness” to the event.
Natural disasters have a much greater impact on local residents but the loss or disruption to airports, roads, accommodation and public utilities affects everyone, with the potential for greater threat to visitors and travellers.
Final risk levels are only useful as a final comparison between multiple locations. Risk levels can only be really effective if displayed in conjunction with the key element/factors that created the final assessment/index.
Final aggregated indicators are tolerable in measured doses to mass audiences that have little decision making power. However, businesses and business leaders need more than just a final “score”.
The indicators must be based on fact (even if used in conjunction with “experience based evaluations”) and specific to the primary audience. Anything less is next to useless. If you have system or a service that can’t or won’t display/disclose such indicators, you need to reconsider the contribution and service immediately.
Most “travel threat ratings” fail to demonstrate greatest areas of risk and only display the final tally.
The most effective and useful systems mirror mainstream business assessments with measurements/results focused on plausible outage times or percentages.
Most threats result in loss of productivity, delays, disruptions or other efficiencies surrounding travel. Because analysis rarely has the capacity to understand or measure this niche, coupled with the fact that few companies are really aware of the cost of such events on a regular basis, much of the value associated with travel risk ratings is lost.
Events and incidents that exclusively affect travellers, expats and visitors such as motor vehicle accidents, illness, sickness, bad water, petty crimes, loss, damage and life safety and security issues constitute a far greater threat to business, even if their ratings don’t indicate it.
The frequency of updates and the replaceable methodologies employed create a threat in their own right. Traveller threats may be cyclic, annual, persistent or isolated in duration but the systems and processes in which they are measured or reviewed are often lengthy and bureaucratic which may only be updated periodically.
Any type of rating or threat analysis is immensely helpful but any “black box” calculation should be questioned. The data that went into the final analysis and rating can be just as important, if not more so, than just the final index, percentage or level.
Now that you understand the differences and weaknesses in many systems, in particular issues around data, audience, indicators and threats you can immediately review or assess your current methods.
Look at the information you have collected or the services you are provided and question whether the results are really relevant to travellers, are they updated very frequently, are the pertinent to your business or are they even pertinent to your location of travel?
Removing the veil associated with much of the analysis is the only way to improve the final results and add greater value to your company with an effective, targeted travel risk management strategy supported by effective and reliable tools.