risk management

Protecting the mobile workforce – International SOS

As corporate travel continues to increase, there seems to be a discrepancy between the perceived travel risk outlook for travellers and the actual risks expected to increase this year.

Results of a survey conducted by International SOS and IPSOS show that 61% of respondents feel that the travel risk have increased for Sub-Saharan Africa over the past year and 72% indicated that travel risks have increased globally. Also, 57% feel that travel risks will continue to increase over the remainder of the year.

The results of the survey was presented as a recent workshop hosted by International SOS and according to the results respondents perceive the top five travel risks to relate to terrorism, civil unrest, extreme weather events, petty crime and natural disasters.

On the contrary however, International SOS says the reality is actually quite the opposite with the top five travel risk factors for 2017 including stomach and gastrointestinal problems, road accidents, inadequate healthcare, flu and non-infectious diseases.

When it comes to the biggest challenges in protecting travellers,  49% of respondents indicated that educating travellers on travel risks was their biggest challenge,  47% said that communication with their travellers during crises was a top challenge and 42% said tracking employee travel  was a major obstacle.

In light of these challenges companies have indicated that they have either reinforced travel security measures for their travellers, updated their travel risk policy, introduced pre-trip advisory emails, implemented travel safety training or implemented programmes to locate travellers.

According to International SOS, in an effort to protect travellers businesses should consider access to advice that is impartial and that can offer a professional assessment on travel risk to specific locations, risk assessments that a profile and itinerary specific, training of travelling staff, identification of key indicators of deterioration and the ability to rapidly and effectively communicate with travellers.

Another key point touched on by International SOS is the rise of mental health in the workplace. International SOS points out that it is increasingly important for organisations to consider the well-being of their mobile workforce.   

In response to this growing need, International SOS, has partnered with Workplace Options (WPO), to provide a seamless service of rapid response psychological support where it is needed, alongside its health and security advice and on the ground support prior to and during a business trip or expatriation.  The global short term counselling service is also extended to managers, local employees and families and can be provided in over 60 languages.

The counselling method is tailored to a mobile workforce: phone, videocall or face to face with support in over 60 languages. The assessment covers the presenting issue, supporting problems, support systems, coping strategies, background information, and a risk assessment and the outcome is a plan that covers the short-term focus including goals agreed upon with the participant.


Warn your clients about Malaria

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has issued a malaria advisory, warning travellers that South Africa is currently experiencing its annual malaria season and that there has been a recent increase of malaria cases in Mozambique due to the storms following Cyclone Dineo that affected Mozambique and the north-eastern parts of South Africa.

Also the Ministry of Health and Wellness for Botswana has issued a warning that the country is experiencing a high level of malaria, following the recent heavy rains.

With the approach of Easter and the public holidays in April, it is important for travellers visiting any of the malaria areas within or outside of South Africa to take additional precautions and maintain a higher index of suspicion.

The NDC has released the following helpful Q&A:

Where is Malaria Found?
Malaria in South Africa is present along the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is specifically prevalent in:

  1. Vembe and Mopane district municipalities of Limpopo Province
  2. Ehlanzeni district municipality in Mpumalanga Province
  3. Umknanyakude in Kwazulu-Natal Province
  4. Kruger National Park.

Neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zimababwe, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Namibia also experience high levels of Malaria.

When Is Malaria Season?
Malaria is distinctly seasonal in South Africa and occurs during the rainy months between September and May.

Who May Be Affected?
People living in an area with malaria are likely to contract the disease if precautions are not taken.

What Precautions Should Be Taken?
Measures To Avoid Mosquito Bites

  1. Wearing long pants, especially at night when mosquitos are more active
  2. Applying topical mosquito repellents that contain DEET
  3. Sleeping under mosquito repellent bed nets treated with insecticide
  4. Spraying living quarters with insecticide after closing doors and windows

Measures to Prevent Malaria from Developing
Travellers should consult with their doctors for a risk assessment and to obtain the appropriate anti-malarial prophylaxis. Current recommended chemoprophylactic regimens include either mefloquine, doxycycline or atovaquone-proguanil. The consulting doctor will advise on the best option and duration of treatment for everyone.

How Will I Know If I Have Malaria?
All travellers should be maintaining a high level of suspicion for flu-like symptoms during and up to one month after their visit ends. These symptoms include:
·       Fever
·       Chills and/or sweating
·       Headaches
·       Nausea and vomiting
·       Body aches
·       Fatigue

What Should I Do If I Suspect That I Have Malaria?
Malaria is treatable and is best diagnosed as early as possible. Anyone presenting with these symptoms should visit their nearest doctor or health facility immediately for an urgent malaria test. A negative test should be treated with caution and tests should be repeated until positive or until symptoms resolves.


US and UK ban electronics on certain flights – what to tell your clients

Corporate travellers flying to the US and the UK via the Middle East or North Africa will need to check in their electronic devices following a ban issued by the Trump administration and the UK government.

The Trump administration has ordered nine airlines to stop passengers from bringing most types of electronic devices — except smartphones — into the cabin for US-bound flights.

The UK government announced a sweeping cabin ban on laptops and tablets on inbound flights from six countries.

CNN listed the key things travellers need to know.


Which airports are involved?

The US ban cover 10 airports, including major global hubs such as Dubai.

The full list is: Cairo, Egypt; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Istanbul, Turkey; Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The U.K. list is shorter. It covers all inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia but omits airports such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.


Which airlines are affected?

The nine airlines that operate direct flights to the US from affected airports are Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Passengers will still be allowed to take electronic devices onto flights departing from the US.

The UK restrictions apply to 14 airlines: British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Saudia.


Which devices are banned?

Smartphones will still be allowed. But passengers will have to check in any electronic devices bigger than that. That includes laptops, cameras, gaming devices and tablets such as iPads.

Medical devices required during the flight will still be allowed in the cabin after security screening.


When will it take effect?

The U.S. government officially notified the airlines at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday. They have 96 hours to fully comply.

And if they don’t? “We will work with the FAA to pull their certificate and they will not be allowed to fly to the United States,” one senior US official said.

The UK said it only that its measures would be introduced soon, and would be kept under constant review.


What are the airlines saying?

Turkish Airlines told passengers traveling to the U.S. that anything bigger than a smartphone must be checked in from March 25. Emirates also said it would implement the new measures for all passengers bound for the US from Dubai on Saturday.

Qatar Airways and EgyptAir said they would be applying the new instructions on March 24.

Other airlines, including Royal Jordanian and Saudi Arabian Airlines, have said they will implement the measures.


What’s the reason for the ban?

US officials say the move is a response to fears that terrorist groups may target passenger planes by smuggling explosive devices in consumer goods.

One official said there’s no specific plot authorities are aware of, but the US has been considering such a ban for some time.


Why these airports?

The US is especially concerned about the 10 airports in question, the official said, because of screening issues and the possibility of terrorists infiltrating the ranks of authorised airport personnel.

Officials said that they believe a threat to the U.S. would be negated if a passenger transferred through a secondary city with additional and more trustworthy screening procedures.


Isn’t it dangerous to put electronic devices in checked baggage?

Safety experts and regulators have long warned that batteries shipped in bulk could constitute a fire risk that ultimately could bring down an aircraft. The International Civil Aviation Organization advised global regulators last year to ban carrying bulk shipments of such batteries in the cargo holds of passenger jets.

But electronics spread out across a person’s luggage pose far less of a threat than palettes of lithium batteries, according to a U.S. aviation official.

ASATA in the News – 5 Things that a travel agent can do for you that Siri can’t

ASATA often features its members in the news to remind consumers of the value a travel consultant can bring. If you would like to be included among the travel consultants that comment or have a story where you’ve saved the day, please contact us on asata@bigambitions.co.za.

The following story appeared in Traveller24 last week and tells consumers exactly what a travel agent can do for them that Siri will never be able to do.

5 Things that a travel agent ‘can do for you that Siri can’t’

Cape Town – Siri, Alexis, Pana. These artificial intelligence ladies have one thing in common… they are all rumoured to be to be ‘the next travel agent that you can easily fit into your pocket’.

They all promise to effortlessly and instantly book your travels at the click of a button on your smartphone or smartwatch. What’s more, they say they will listen to your and ‘understand’ your travel intent, making suggestions on possible holiday destinations.

But can these virtual ladies replace the ‘real flesh’ travel agent? We chatted to a few agents affiliated to the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA) to find out what they can do, that Siri (or Alexis or Pana) can’t.

1. Land you the best seats in the house

Sure, Siri can search the Internet for the best restaurants and the best seats on the plane, but can she get you that ‘impossible to get’ reservation or secure you that very best seat?

Mandy McEvoy of Club Travel Westlake uses her relationship with airline representatives to obtain the best seats for special clients. “I sometimes even get them a free pass to the business class lounge if they have a very long transit,” she says. We’d like to see Siri try…

“I will always use my knowledge to land clients the best seats in the house,” says Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town. Did you know for example that Emirates Airlines allows clients who are registered with Skywards to be pre-seated without paying for it or having to wait until 48 hours prior to departure? Did Siri ever tell you that?

2. Give you advice from first-hand experience

Did Siri ever buy a sarong from the market in Thailand? Can she tell you which beach vendor has the best fares? Did she ever go for breakfast in Paris? Can she tell you where you can eat the most delicious croissants?

Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town explains she loves helping her clients get a feel for the destination by showing them pictures of her trips to the destination and give them advice from first-hand experience.

3. Help you make informed decisions

Is New York really the best destination for your next family trip? Is it safe? Will the city keep the kids entertained? Will you be able to get a visa in time?

“Siri cannot guarantee peace of mind or informed decision making, travel advisors can,” says Robyn Daneel-Spicer of Sure Stellenbosch Travel. “With personal experience in travel having travelled to many destinations, training in those destinations and working with travel related issues on a regular basis, travellers can rest assured that they are getting the best advice based on many levels of expertise.”

4. Re-assure you in times of emergency

“I-am-sorry-I-do-not-understand-please-help-me-my-flight-is-cancelled’ is the last thing you want to hear from your personal assistant in times of emergency.

When clients are stuck in Turkey due to bad weather conditions, they want to talk to a real-life person for advice on where to go, what to do and who can assist them on the ground, explains Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town.

5. Travel with Peace of Mind

Although Siri is a clever lady, it seems there are still a few things she can’t do, and one of them is helping you travel with Peace of Mind…. Only an ASATA travel agent can help you do that.

SARS Audit Findings on the application of zero-rating on international air transport

Following our letter dated 09 November 2016, regarding VAT implications on additional or supplementary commissions from carriers, several of our members have now started to receive audit findings from SARS.

As you will recall from the communique, Shepstone Wylie Attorneys accompanied ASATA to a meeting with SARS to understand the organisation’s concerns and whether there could be an efficient and effective way to resolve the dispute. We also attempted to understand what SARS was focusing on and at the time of our letter to you, suspected that it only related to supplementary commissions, as prior to this meeting, SARS believed that the additional supplementary commissions were for the supply of some other service and that it should be subject to 14%, irrespective that the underlying service was either for the arrangement of local or international travel.

The arrangement of international travel is zero-rated in terms of section 11(2)(d) of the VAT Act and SARS’ view was that it does not automatically follow that the additional or supplementary commissions are also zero-rated in terms of section 11(2)(d).

Based on the SARS findings received to date, their position regarding the application of zero-rating is now clear. SARS believes that the service of arranging international transport is provided to the traveller, not the airline and that all commissions, overrides and rebates received from airlines is not consideration in respect of “arranging international transport” but for a separate supply, being the selling of tickets. As a result of this definition by SARS, they are of the opinion that commissions, overrides and supplier rebates received, do not fall with the ambit of “international transportation” or “arranging” thereof and therefore cannot be zero-rated.

ASATA’s current opinion is that commissions, overrides and supplier rebates in the case of international travel is also zero-rated because there is not another supply and that the arranging of international transport and the selling of tickets is one and the same thing.

What should you do if you receive a similar audit finding from SARS?

You will be required to respond to the findings within 21 days of receipt. We recommend that you apply to SARS for an extension. This should provide you with an additional 21 days to respond.

Engage your legal counsel and/ or auditors and request their assistance in drafting an appropriate response to SARS.

Prior to sending the response to SARS, we would request that your share it with ASATA. This will further guide and inform how the industry will look to respond to the matter, as a collective and whether or not we believe we have grounds to challenge SARS’s interpretation on the Act.

SIA to fold surcharges into Base Airfare – when will SA airlines follow suit?

Singapore Airlines and regional arm SilkAir have announced they will fold fuel and insurance surcharges into base airfares.

With the removal of the fuel and insurance surcharges as a separate component, customers will be presented with a single base airfare when purchasing tickets. The airline explains this move is intended to provide a more simplified fare structure for customers.

The folding in of fuel and insurance surcharges into base airfares will be implemented progressively by region, starting from 28 March 2017. It is expected to be completed by May 2017.

Fuel and insurance surcharges will also no longer apply to KrisFlyer frequent-flyer programme redemption bookings Redemption bookings on flights operated by other airlines may still include surcharges, with effect from 23 March 2017.

ASATA has welcomed Singapore’s announcement, saying that the position of ASATA on the matter has always been that fuel is a cost of doing business, an inherent part of the airline’s operations, and should be included in the airfare, much in the same was as other operational costs such as captain and flight attendant salaries are.

ASATA strongly advocates a move by all airlines operating within South Africa to also include their fuel surcharges, and any other charges that are under the control of the airline, within the base airfare to eliminate confusion among consumers and provide an all-inclusive transparent air ticket price.

Explains Otto De Vries, CEO ASATA: “Fuel is a cost of doing business and should be included in the airfare. The price the passenger sees should be the price he or she pays and any variations in the cost of an airline ticket should be directly related to the cost of doing business, and supply and demand. Not under the auspices of recovering an elevated cost that is no longer elevated.”


ASATA in the news

ASATA is featuring its members in the news on a regular basis. If you would like to be included among the travel consultants that comment or have a story where you’ve saved the day, please contact us on asata@bigambitions.co.za.

The following story appeared in BizCommunity this week and tells consumers exactly how South African travel consultants have given the Internet a run for its money. Check it out here

South African travel agents giving the Internet a run for its money

Technology, digitisation and automation – travel agents have faced numerous disruptions over the past few years. Newspapers have even predicted the end of the travel agent altogether, saying the travel consultant will soon become extinct. However, instead of succumbing to outside pressures, the South African travel industry has become stronger, and ASATA travel agents have even given the internet a run for its money.

The Internet can take orders but can it offer proactive consulting?

Sure Travel has focussed on proactive consulting and offering concierge-style services to its clients instead of limiting itself to order taking. Sure Travel’s Robyn Daneel Spicer explains that Sure Travel consultants are anticipating what the client wants in order to be able to offer their clients the best value-for-money offering.

Says Spicer: “An online travel agency can quote you on flights to small towns in remote parts of the world even if these flights will take over 24hours of travel. A Sure travel agent will investigate cutting travel time and find the best routing in terms of airfares, trains, and transfers. The client thinks they know what they want, but it is up to us as advisors to guide them in the right direction.”

The Internet has created tech-savvy travellers, but also customer-centric agents

The ease of booking travel online hasn’t only attracted tech-savvy travellers but also agents who are customer-centric, according to Club Travel.

Club Travel’s Luana Visagie explains many potential clients are confused by mixed reviews found online and are overwhelmed when it comes to penalties for changes and cancellations. “This is where a clued-up consultant is able to put the client at ease by asking questions, profiling the client and limiting options to those which really appeal to the client’s needs and budget,” she says.

Visagie says the disruptions the industry has faced, have pushed travel consultants to remain on top of their game. “The industry competition is tough and will only get tougher, so agents need to know how to ‘wow’ their clients to the point that they are referring their friends and family to their agent.”

The Internet can’t offer corporate travellers an end-to-end solution, but travel agents can

Marco Ciocchetti, CEO XL Travel, explains that the role of travel management companies or TMCs has become and will continue to evolve in finding end-to-end solutions for their clients from the booking process to the expense management of the company.

A corporate travel agent will offer clients a comprehensive optimisation of the company’s travel spend, as well as data consolidation and reporting. The ASATA travel agent will ensure travellers toe the line and are compliant with the company’s travel policy. They will also make sure the traveller is safe and put together a professional duty of care programme.

Can’t beat the technology wave? Join it

Club Travel’s Visagie explains there is no doubt the increase and growth of online travel platforms like booking.com, Airbnb and others have resulted in many more ‘DIY travellers’ and this has disrupted the industry. But, she says that instead of resisting this change, Club Travel offers clients the opportunity to make their bookings on any of Club Travel’s online booking platforms. The difference is that they have access to a support team if need be.