From study abroad students to professors on sabbatical; universities have their own ecosystem when is comes to travel management. Just think of it, potentially thousands of students, administrators, professors and contractors can be traveling on behalf of an academic institution at any one time. That’s why it’s so surprising to learn that many universities and colleges do not utilize travel management companies for their complex travel needs. Many know that mandating travel would help them stay organized and reduce travel costs. But unfortunately, finding the right TMC often becomes a ‘back-burner’ item. Additionally, as the global and political climate become more unpredictable, the responsibility of duty of care for universities is also growing. Can learning institutions really afford not have a mandated travel management program in this day and age?

Increase in travel risk requires more duty of care for universities

Duty of care responsibility and the travel risk management that is required to maintain it, is a large task for even small startups. The responsibility required by a university or college can be mind boggling. Whether it be theft, terrorism, disease, or weather; the risks associated with travel have always been around. And unfortunately, it appears to be increasing. iJET, a leader in integrated travel management, found that 98% of their alerts were issued in just the past five years. Additionally, 78% of travel managers plan on making risk management a higher priority this year. Risk, from pickpockets to something catastrophic, is a global issue that only seems to be growing. It is naive to think that universities and colleges of any size can adequately protect their students and employees without the assistance of a travel management program.

How a lack of duty of care lead to disaster

In 2007, Cara Munn was an active 15 year-old excited to attend a school trip to China. Her private boarding school, The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, lead a month-long excursion around the country. Part of the trip included a hike on Mount Panshan. We now know that the trip leaders never told the students to put on bug spray. She was also allowed to hike down the mountain unsupervised rather than take a cable car with the group. Ten days later, Munn was rushed to Beijing hospital with a high fever, headache and wooziness. She eventually was airlifted back to New York. Due to the hike without bug spray, Munn contracted tick-borne encephalitis. This viral infection caused by ticks commonly manifests as meningitis, encephalitis, or meningoencephalitis. Though Munn went on to finish high school and attended Trinity College, she has lost the ability to speak and some cognitive functions.

Ten years later, Hotchkiss School and the Munn family are still in the middle of a heated lawsuit. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled to uphold a $41.5 million verdict for the family. They found that the school lacked duty of care responsibility when they failed to warn or protect their students against the risk of a serious insect-borne disease. Though the case is now pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the amount of time, money, stress and energy spent by the school has been insurmountable. And with the court cases appearing to favor the student, it’s becoming more and more apparent that education institutions need to have their duty of care and travel risk management protocol in place and in action should an incident arise.

The necessity of duty of care solutions for universities

Basically it comes down to one question. Can your institution afford to not have duty of care responsibility? Could you afford ten years worth of court fees like this example? What about the bad publicity and tarnished reputation that would come with it?

We’re lucky enough to live in a time where technology has made previously convoluted and confusing tasks simple and straightforward. Travel technology, like our AirPortal 360 Suite, provides support and guidance from the very beginning of your traveler’s process. Ensure they are booking within policy and easily keep track of their itinerary and preferences. Once they travel, monitor their progress and receive travel alerts around their location. Travel management and duty of care responsibility are more important now than ever, but luckily, our travel technology is easy to use and provides peace of mind. If you or your university is interested in learning more about travel management services, please contact us.

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Carmen White

Carmen White

Carmen is the Digital Marketing Specialist for Christopherson and has been in the marketing industry for more than 6 years. She enjoys learning the ins-and-outs of the business travel management industry and sharing it through blogs or social media. When she's not planning her next vacation, you can find her hiking in the mountains around Denver, CO. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

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