As travel resumes, travellers can expect to face a broader set of risks, beyond those associated with the pandemic, according to BCD Travel’s latest Travel Risk Outlook report.
Based on both internal statistics from BCD’s Global Crisis Management (GCM) team, which monitors global risks and incidents around the clock, and external sources such as IATA, IPCC, WHO, Oxford Economics and the World Economic Forum, the Travel Risk Outlook report outlines seven risk categories that may impact business travel.
One, the health of the economy may be the biggest underlying challenge faced by travel programmes, as it influences the pressure companies face to control their costs and therefore their travel budgets.
Two, climate change and extreme weather events will disrupt travel. In fact, BCD statistics show an increase in travel disruptions from natural events. In 2020, the number of incidents per million airline passengers increased by 82 per cent year-over-year, with a further 23 per cent rise recorded in 2021. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the next two decades will herald unavoidable multiple climate hazards.
Three, geopolitical developments will impact travel, as shown by the Ukraine-Russia war. To keep travellers safe, it is key to have a comprehensive travel risk management programme in place and to stay abreast of such events.
Four, personal risk persists. The random nature of kidnappings or terrorism makes locating and communicating with business travellers a vital part of a travel manager’s role.
Five, the sudden shift to remote work during the pandemic has increased the exposure of company IT systems to external threats. With 31 per cent of all employees worldwide expected to be hybrid or fully remote workers in 2022, these cyber risks are unlikely to disappear.
Six, vaccine hesitancy and the diversion of medical resources to deal with the pandemic have increased the risks associated with traditional diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella. Meanwhile, scientists continue to be concerned about the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant, one that is highly transmissible and capable of evading existing vaccines.
Seven, there are new travel risks in a new world. The transition to remote working is changing the way we work and travel. To ensure that all employees, not just travellers, are protected when working remotely, companies should consider a shift from travel risk management to people risk management.
Jorge Mesa, director of global crisis management at BCD Travel, said: “Companies should refamiliarise themselves with these risks and ensure travellers are safe. The expertise of their travel, purchasing and security managers has never been more valuable than right now. The last two years have prepared them for this moment.”
BCD’s GCM team has also highlighted that the nature of travel risks has significantly changed over the past four years. Natural events are proving to be more disruptive, with extreme weather, earthquakes and wildfires accounting for 24 per cent of all travel incidents in 2021 (up from 18 per cent in 2018).
Civil unrest and incidents of violence represent 20 per cent of all risk-related events in 2021 (up from 15 per cent in 2018). This shows that risk is not confined to the journey to/from a destination; travellers are as much at risk at the destination and need support from travel managers for the entire trip.
Air travel-related incidents fell from 29 per cent in 2018 to 20 per cent in 2021. This does not necessarily mean fewer flight disruptions. Given the rise in rail incidents – up from 15 per cent in 2018 to 20 per cent in 2021, it could be that travellers are using alternative means of transport or taking fewer trips that require air travel.
“Clearly, not all organisations travel to destinations where kidnapping or geopolitical discord pose risks,” said Mike Janssen, global chief operating officer and chief commercial officer at BCD.
“But worldwide, there is a growing number of different dangers that threaten employees and organisations. Our GCM team’s findings show the need to act now and assess, adopt and apply risk management strategies that fit company travel patterns and goals.”