Understand duty of care and what it means. The pandemic has spotlighted the importance of duty of care and negligence. It also illuminated that companies must address the foreseeability of risk and implement measures to reduce and avert those risks. Not doing so is considered gross negligence.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Harrison.
Frank Harrison, Regional Security Director of North America for World Travel Protection, has a Graduate Degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding and a diverse background in emergency, operations, and security risk-management planning. His work in public security and safety, as well as consulting for the extractive resource sector, has taken him across the globe for 20 years, often to hostile and austere locations such as West Africa, the Middle East, Papua New Guinea, and the Arctic. Since starting his role as Security Director at WTP, Frank has focused on delivering security tools to front-line assistance team members, and he has also developed his role to support travelers who may experience a security-related crisis event.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have worked my entire adult life in roles to protect people, which is why the work I do at World Travel Protection seems a natural home for my skills. As a security professional who’s traveled to some of the highest risk locations around the globe, I’m able to lead the type of in-depth risk assessment that most travelers don’t often think about and lend my knowledge to help keep them safe.
While I don’t think there’s one story that started me down this path, I do recall, early in my career at the United Nations, feeling that I had found a passion. At the time I was tasked with providing close protection to a senior-level diplomat who was traveling to a threatening, high-risk area in the embargoed region of Georgia, part of the former Soviet Union. It was an intense experience, filled with journeys into often-unfriendly territory and multiple safety threats. I found I was able to apply my military experience to keep the team safe and was invigorated by the opportunity to support the travelers in my care. I realized then that I had real skills to detect risk and help people develop a deep awareness of their surroundings.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are so many stories I could share. But one in particular stands out, as both extremely challenging and gratifying at the same time. A number of years ago, I was stationed in Rwanda, in the wake of its horrendous Civil War and genocide. One day, our team received an urgent call that a young leader from a North American NGO supporting local orphanages had gone missing.
This person’s parents were understandably frantic to get any information on their child’s status, and with enemy militia roaming rampant, we feared the worst. But we quickly sprang into action. Working with the US Embassy in the capital of Kigali, we were able to track this young person’s last movements and communicate with local villagers about where they had last been seen. The effort required face-to-face, village-to-village visits. Finally, in one village, a trusted elder came up to us and made a motion to follow him. We walked to the very back of his rural property, to a well-concealed area, where we found our young NGO leader — alive and well, safely hidden away from the militia. A happy ending for this young person, reminding us of the critical importance of building trusted networks of support. It’s a lesson I’ve taken with me to this day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ll share a funny story about how a simple mistake can trigger a full-blown crisis response. It occurred when I was Security Manager for an oil and gas company’s operations in Papua New Guinea. Given strict security protocols around the site at the time, there were a number of restrictions around who could visit. So when we learned that a senior-level engineer with sensitive information about the operation would be coming to conduct a review, we prepared accordingly, carefully planning his arrival and sending the usual security detail to pick him up. Yet when his plane landed, he wasn’t there — and we couldn’t reach him through the usual channels. It was almost as if he had vanished into thin air. Our team immediately went into crisis management mode, triggering a senior-level effort to locate the engineer and bring him back safely.
We soon learned that the joke was on us — apparently the engineer had taken it upon himself to book his own travel. But instead of booking the destination of Papua New Guinea, a small country just north of Australia, he had booked the destination of Conakry, Guinea, a country in the western part of Africa! We were finally able to locate him and reroute him to the proper destination.
In terms of lessons learned, I would say this: even when you have the perfect travel risk management approach in place, there will always be people who do the unexpected. How an organization is able to respond to the unexpected will make all the difference.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
In the travel and tourism sector, very few people have a real understanding of travel risk management. So when a crisis or event does occur, it can be very stressful for everyone involved. An added challenge is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the travel industry, and our current landscape presents more volatile challenges than ever before. For those working in the industry, anticipating and preparing for new risks is now a big part of the job. This can understandably lead to anxiety and tension-filled situations.
My best advice to thrive and prevent burnout for colleagues navigating this new terrain is to continue to seek out education on the topic of travel risk management and pass this knowledge along to the travelers and businesses they’re supporting. Effective travel risk management (TRM) requires a business-driven approach that focuses on identifying issues and redefining them as opportunities. The focus should not just be on the traveler, but also on the destination and planned activities. Knowledge is power, and preparation is key to managing risks and fears for everyone involved.
Another piece of advice is to put your own mental health front and center. I am fortunate to be part of an Employee Resource Group (ERG) at WTP’s parent company, Zurich Insurance. It’s called “Healthy Minds,” and we encourage everyone across the organization to take advantage of the resources available. There should be no stigma to putting up your hand and seeking help.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
During my 14-year military career, I was fortunate to rise quickly through the ranks and was promoted well in advance of my peers. I’ve always believed that my success was partly related to a piece of leadership advice I received early on from a senior non-commissioned officer. He told me that a good leader is one who leads with empathy and respect and never resorts to berating subordinates to show superiority. At the time, this advice seemed particularly poignant given I had witnessed more than a bit of egotism and intimidation tactics from some of the other leaders. I’ve always valued this advice and taken it with me through my professional career. Thank you, Master Warrant Officer Trevor Badour.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Our innovations are in the important area of travel risk technology. We’re delivering robust AI-driven solutions to optimize travel risk intelligence, traveler tracking, traveler alerting, and traveler assistance — all in real time, at the touch of a button.
It used to be that travelers would purchase travel insurance as a bit of an afterthought, just in case they got sick or needed medical care while away. That was their idea of travel risk management and clearly a reactive and unidimensional approach to managing risk!
Today, we are using technology to take a much more proactive approach to protecting travelers.
Our technology allows us to anticipate risks and provide robust pre-travel intelligence so that travelers know what risks to expect at their destination. It allows us to be in touch with those travelers immediately, wherever they are, through a secure travel app on their mobile phone; and most importantly, it enables us to respond in real time — to locate, communicate, assist, and potentially extract people across borders, time zones, and governments.
To give you a real-life example of how this all works, picture yourself as a traveler walking down the street in a foreign country. In a second, thanks to an alert sent to your mobile device, we can let you know that there’s a civil disturbance or shooting happening two blocks away. You can react immediately to rearrange your plans and avoid the dangerous situation. Or let’s say you fall ill while away. You can call our 24–7 command centre and be immediately directed to the best local care centre for your needs or have a telemedicine appointment with a physician on your mobile to determine whether it’s just something minor. We can even arrange to have prescription medicines delivered to your hotel so that you can easily continue your journey. So in many ways, our technology is helping to make trips a little easier for travelers to navigate if something goes wrong.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Our efforts are squarely focused on advancing traveler safety and security. Today’s travel landscape is more volatile than ever before, and travelers face heightened health, safety, and security risks. Cybercrime and theft have risen dramatically during the pandemic, and climate change is wreaking havoc on travel schedules and destinations. Once ‘safe’ locations are not immune from unpredictable climatic events, such as wildfires, flooding, severe storms, and more. It’s truly a new and riskier world for travelers.
With our AI-fueled technology, we can keep travelers safer and respond more quickly to help them in the event of a crisis.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Across the globe, as we educate audiences on the future of travel and share how our advanced travel risk technologies can help, we are already seeing that business leaders are listening — and acting. Together, we are disrupting the status quo.
Forward-thinking companies are updating their travel risk management strategies to reflect the realities of the changing landscape of travel in 2022. They are dusting off the pre-COVID travel protocols from 2019 and changing their whole approach to travel risk management, treating it like any other business imperative and ensuring employees are educated on all protocols.
They are considering the risks of senior leadership contracting COVID, needing hospitalization, becoming incapacitated, or getting stranded. They are implementing strategies to ensure that when a traveler experiences an incident, mistake, or vulnerability, the company has a feedback process and plan to support them. They know that their actions — or lack of action — have the potential to affect legal, compliance, and duty of care responsibilities.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
With the return to travel, the travel and hospitality companies will need to adjust significantly today and over the years to come. For most travelers, the pandemic is perceived as over, even as new strains and outbreaks continue. This presents a problem, as many are still traveling like it’s 2019, not 2022, and few are considering the realities of today’s world. Here are just a few things that travel and hospitality companies should be doing to address these challenges in the short-term:
- Differentiate themselves as employers of choice. Here’s the thing: while travelers are returning in great numbers, travel and tourism employees, hard hit by the pandemic, have not returned in the same numbers. This means that at many tourist destinations there are not nearly enough staff to manage passenger flows, screening, support services, and hospitality needs. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in increased delays for many passengers at air, land, and sea points of entry to many countries, as well as at hotels and attractions around the world. In a competitive marketplace, travel and hospitality companies will need to find ways to attract and retain good talent.
- Educate clients about the current travel environment. Like many other industries, the travel sector is experiencing supply chain disruptions, inflation, higher fuel costs, and lowered service capacity. Travelers can expect higher prices and limited services overall, amidst increased demands for the type of service one has come to expect. Travel and hospitality companies will need to help their clients understand this new reality.
- Audit existing policies related to health, safety, and security procedures — and update them to reflect today’s more volatile environment. This includes everything from updating ongoing COVID-containment policies, vaccination policies, and workplace safety programs to providing more secure data sharing and networking to updating crisis response and preparedness plans.
- Build in business continuity strategies. This includes crisis management and issues escalation protocols. In the event of a crisis, natural disaster, or new pandemic, travel and hospitality companies will need to be nimble, anticipate disruption, and pivot accordingly.
- Understand duty of care and what it means. The pandemic has spotlighted the importance of duty of care and negligence. It also illuminated that companies must address the foreseeability of risk and implement measures to reduce and avert those risks. Not doing so is considered gross negligence.
There’s no doubt that companies across the sector will need to update their travel risk management policies. One of the best ways to educate leaders is to tap into some of the advice and resources offered by companies like World Travel Protection.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Having traveled all over the world, my favorite place to go is Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a land of mountains that disappear into clouds with trees that dwarf the landscape around you, and beauty that takes your breath away at every opportunity.
A close second is Rwanda. Within an hour of its capital of Kigali, you can visit local villages, tropical rainforests, volcanoes, and high plateaus that are almost too amazing to describe. And the people are incredible — friendly and welcoming and truly inspiring, especially after everything they’ve been through.
My idea of a perfect vacation experience is one where I feel prepared and knowledgeable about the destination, and confident about the safety of my surroundings. All that takes is education and a good travel risk management approach.
There are so many places across the globe that have the potential to provide the perfect vacation experience. In this new travel landscape of 2022, prepared travelers will likely have much more satisfying travel experiences.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
One way to cultivate a more wellness-driven experience while traveling is by practicing gratitude for all the people who make travel possible for us. The front-line service people have made it safe to return to travel, and without them, we would still be stuck at home. I always take time to be courteous and appreciative of these workers.
I also carefully plan each trip and always give myself extra time for delays and other issues that might come up. Doing my best to make sure I don’t have to feel stressed or rushed makes travel more enjoyable.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I always say that my career has not been a static linear journey, but rather a result of following my passions and working with people who share similar values. I am an avid supporter of giving back through volunteer activities, whether within the community or professionally, and by joining events and internal efforts to support employees. I am a member of multiple Employee Resource Groups, including Pride, Mental Health, and Veteran-focused groups that promote wellness, education, and support within my professional space.
Externally, I have always been interested in supporting causes where my skills can be put to good use. I have extensive emergency and disaster response volunteer experience with the Red Cross and The Salvation Army in Canada, and I have been deployed with charities in the veteran space that have taken me to flood-ravaged communities in the United States to help. I have been the national director of operations for a homeless veteran NGO and am presently a moderator for the Dallaire Initiative, which includes being responsible for an online learning environment within its “Children and Youth Recruited and Used in Violence” course.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement with seasoned mental health advocates and social workers at its core. We would build a volunteer program where emergency and crisis response experts would be deployed to assist individuals and communities in crisis recovering from disasters. While the key objective would be to help coordinate a response to the crisis, a secondary objective would be to support, create a social community, and introduce the unhoused and needs-challenged persons in those communities and those trying to transition off the streets to a welcoming environment.
A key fundraising component would be a small home initiative when teams are not deployed. Essentially the movement would build tiny homes and small communities in partnership with charities, municipalities, and social services to assist our society’s most vulnerable. They can secure a place of their own, be part of something organized, and volunteer as part of the group. The group provides the framework or a social network. The foundation is the stability and the work, and the passion is the anchor. One small house, one small village, one significant impact. Many aspects of this exist, but none are under one organic banner, one mission.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!