In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted, which grounded flights, caused huge disruption to thousands of travellers and highlighted a number of flaws in managed travel programmes.

Lessons should have been learned since the 2010 ‘ash cloud’, but with the Icelandic Met Office issuing amber and red alerts over the past couple of weeks, which could mean an eruption to the Bardarbunga volcano is now imminent, BBT asked Egencia and the GTMC for their top tips for travel buyers in case of another crisis:

  1. Plan: Ensure you have contingency plans in place and can contact all clients to provide updates, and alert those who may potentially be affected.
  1. Provide reassurance: Let clients know that you’re monitoring developments as they happen and will rebook their travel if necessary. Ensure that both you and they understand the risk.
  2. Learn from past events: a volcano in Iceland causing travel disruption has happened before. What worked and didn’t in terms of the management of that situation, and what regions of the world were affected? Look at clients booked to travel in the impacted regions and if the alert is raised, be ready to recommend alternatives, re-book or re-schedule.
  1. Provide alternatives: air travel may be out of the question but for travellers who don’t have to travel as far afield, do everything you can to provide them with suitable alternatives that make use of rail networks or car hire locations.
  2. Know where your travellers are at all times: monitor traveller movement globally through a traveller tracking system or facilitate traceability by asking employees to leave a copy of their travel itineraries with a company representative.
  3. Access on the road: provide travellers with a mobile application integrated into your travel management system to give them access to real-time travel alerts using their mobile phone or tablet, wherever they are.
  4. Get a reliable source of information: regular travel alerts on risks from a reliable source will help you plan and react to unexpected events. These should be continuously updated on your communication channels to travellers as well.
  5. Make sure you have the support you need: In times of crisis, travelers often need assistance in rebooking, or getting emergency accommodations. TMCs may provide extended opening hours and reinforce their customer service teams if needed.  Make sure your TMC has such a plan in place.
  6. Ask for feedback and evaluate: once the industry is no longer affected, reach out to clients for feedback on how they thought their TMC managed the situation and whether there was anything they could do differently next time.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel has provided some stats from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption to show the affect it had on business travellers:

  • CWT handled 30,000 calls a day (compared to 13,500 normally)
  • Extended opening hours of normal service centres to support the 24 Hours Service Centre
  • 300 staff cancelled weekend plans to help travellers
  • Many staff were booked into local hotels so they didn’t have to travel home after long shifts
  • Staff who were no longer in front line role returned to the front line – 819 staff were on the phones at the peak of the crisis
  • Management teams booked accommodation, coaches and organised shift patterns for teams whilst having three times a day update calls
  • CWT allowed staff to cancel annual leave at short notice to help if they wanted to
  • Had homeworkers set up to field overflow calls

Click here to read the article ‘After the ash cloud’

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