Health & Safety in Educational Travel and Why There’s No Cutting Corners

May 25, 2023

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: 

  • The Discova Safety Management System (including risk and incident assessments, response and management) 
  • Supplier Health & Safety (H&S) audits 
  • Homestay and transportation safety checklist evaluations and guidelines 
  • Answers to your most pressing, detailed H&S questions around your personally curated educational program and Discova’s H&S management 
These measures focus on providing transparency and accountability in order to protect the wellbeing of students, staff, and all those involved during the educational tours you book with us. 
What do Discova’s H&S procedures and risk assessments look like? 

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:

  • Fit for purpose
  • Comply with appropriate locally enforced regulations
  • Meet the minimum standards we expect


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.

Discova Educational Travel in Vietnam
Phuong Vu with village members during their ChildSafe training in Khai Cai, Hoa Binh, Vietnam, a community we have been working with since 2018.

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:

  • The risk type
  • The risk level (low, medium, high)
  • Existing control measures to prevent the risk
  • Response actions in case of incidents
Discova Educational Travel
Service learning and supporting the development of community projects is a significant part of our educational travel offering. (Callum Thompson photography)
The Risk Assessment Guide also includes a packing list (according to weather and geographical conditions) relevant to the destination students will visit, as well as a School Program Rural Evacuation Protocol for emergencies in cases of forced majeure (political unrest, natural disasters flooding, landslides etc.). that teachers/guides or facilitators cannot deal with in a safe and effective manner. Discova will provide Incident Reports in case of injuries, illness or property damage involving program participants, which clients may use to claim back with the travel insurance providers.
In-person auditing and H&S checklists 

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:

  • Whether any smoke detection is present
  • The water safety of the accommodation
  • If there is any nighttime security on-site

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.  

How do we select and evaluate suppliers and accommodations to ensure that they meet our (and your) educational travel standards? How do we respond to suppliers who do not meet these standards?

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.

How does Discova recruit and train staff to ensure that they have the necessary expertise to implement our Health and Safety protocols effectively?

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.”

Discova tour guides first aid training in Thailand
Discova tour guides in Thailand during their First Aid training.

All of our tour guides are trained in crisis management and best ChildSafe practices, and all guides used for our educational travel tours specifically undergo police record checks.

For a more in-depth look at some of the training our tour guides follow, read our latest article
How does our DET team stay up-to-date on best practices and evolving Health and Safety guidelines in the travel industry?

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.

Discova educational travel team at OFFSEAS conference
Martin and Phuong together at the Outdoor Learning Forum.

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