What’s the most important, uncompromisable factor for you when you book an educational tour? Predictably, it must be your students’ health and safety (H&S). We’d like to give you a laydown of our comprehensive risk management system and how you can best design safe journeys for your student groups.
When you book educational travel with us you get:
We spoke to Phuong Vu, our Discova Educational Travel (DET) Regional Operations Team Leader, about the H&S measures and protocols that Discova has put in place to determine and avoid potential risks in all aspects of an educational tour.
We have an overarching Safety Management System that aims to ensure that, as far as is reasonably practicable, transport, accommodation and activities operated by Discova are:
This system includes a Risk Score evaluation, guidelines for Emergency Procedures and Incident Reporting, an “Escalation Panel” to review any supplier risk issues escalated on behalf of the safety team, and Decision Making Flow Charts for when suppliers complete or refuse to complete safety data questionnaires.
Added to this system, we have a Risk Assessment Guide. The guide covers a range of possible risk factors for student groups whilst on a trip, from Pre-existing Medical Conditions and Eating/Drinking, to Heat Exhaustion & Dehydration, Vehicular Travel, Cultural Issues, various outdoor activities, Forced Majeur, and more.
The Discova Risk Assessment Guide evaluates:
Wherever possible, our parent company’s (Flight Centre Travel Group – FCTG) Global Operations Risk Manager, Claydon Stayt, or Operational Risk Officer, Andrew Howells, or a nominated consultant, conduct in-person H&S audits of our community-led tourism and development projects, and suppliers (including accommodations, transportation and activity providers).
Where not possible, we ask our suppliers to fill out safety checklists. For our educational travel tours, we have a specifically designed checklist for accommodation used in villages.
Example questions evaluate:
Most of our educational travel clients (schools and universities) of course also have their own third-party provider questionnaires that we are requested to fill in. These answer relevant detailed questions relating to our DET operations and safety procedures. However, because of non-tourism exposure of some of the more remote sites we may operate in, we encourage our clients to accept our safety information.
Phuong: “Our Contracting team reaches out to suppliers to fill in relevant healthy and safety checklist forms. If they do not meet our standards, but we have no alternatives, then we involve our Global Operational Risk Team and explain to them why we need the supplier. They can advise us if we can or cannot use them. We then discuss the potential risks with our client and leave it to them to make the final decision.”
We also count on client and guide feedback to continuously ensure suppliers meet standards off-paper. In this way we have the eyes and ears of the people on the ground to help us validate what’s been said on paper.
Wherever possible, we avoid terminating contracts with suppliers, rather trying to train and realign them to meet our standards if they did not meet them in the past.
Phuong: “There are certain requirements we have for our staff, and more specifically tour guides. For communication, they have to be good at English and have strong soft skills. Like time management, leadership ability, great problem-solving skills, emergency handling, negotiation skills, a good understanding of local culture and traditions, and be able to be patient and remain calm under pressure.”
Our team relies on regular updates and approvals from our Risk Management team, and attends training and educational travel conferences and meetings whenever opportunities present themselves.
Most recently, Phuong attended the Outdoor Learning Forum (28-29 April 2023), hosted by Outdoor Forum for South East Asian Schools (OFFSEAS) and Tanglin Trust School (TTS). We have a long-standing relationship with TTS, and Martin Foakes, Head of Outdoor Education at the school, is set to become one of our Advisory Board members, where he will play a vital role in the continuous enhancement of the quality and safety of our educational tours and services.
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