Travel Risk Outlook: 7 threats your business travelers might encounter

It may be hard to imagine, but the pandemic isn’t the only risk that business travelers face. Extreme weather, civil war, terrorism, and kidnapping are real dangers, and cybersecurity threats are growing. Make sure your travelers, program and policy are prepared with essential information, tactics and readiness plans.

BCD Travel’s new Travel Risk Outlook report provides travel managers, purchasing managers and corporate travel arrangers with essential information to set priorities and adjust their corporate travel programs in times of high uncertainty and constant change. 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 International Air Transport AssociationIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)World Health Organization (WHO)Oxford Economics and the World Economic Forum, the Travel Risk Outlook report outlines seven risk categories that may impact business travel.

  1. Economic outlook
  2. Climate change and extreme weather events
  3. Geopolitical developments
  4. Personal risk
  5. Cybersecurity
  6. Health threats
  7. New world, new travel risks

Travel risks change over time – and so must the support for travelers

BCD’s Global Crisis Management (GCM) team tracked changes in the nature of travel risk from 2018-2021. Natural events proved quite disruptive, with extreme weather, earthquakes and wildfires responsible for almost one quarter of all incidents in 2021, up from 18% in 2018, according to GCM research. Air travel incidents accounted for 30% of all events between 2018 and 2020, with airline failures a big issue in 2020. This number fell to 20% in 2021, but that doesn’t mean fewer flight disruptions; travelers may have just decided to skip planes for other transportation modes. Civil unrest and incidents of violence together made up around one-fifth of all risk-related events since 2019. The takeaway: It’s not just the act of traveling to and from a destination that creates risk; travelers are also at risk while at the destination and will need the support of travel managers for the entire business trip.

1. Economic health and business travel

The health of the economy matters to business travel. It influences what products and services are bought and sold. It affects business confidence and investment sentiment. The challenge for travel programs is that the state of the economy influences the degree of pressure companies face to control costs and budgets. This affects planning, business decisions, revenue and profits, and inevitably travel.

2. Climate change and weather

The consequences of extreme weather events reach beyond the event itself. For example, more turbulent winds and rainfall in one location increases the risk of flooding elsewhere. Travel teams must develop and adapt policies to anticipate support for the travelers delayed by the storm and those threatened by flooding.

3. World politics and business trips

When disruptions and risk result from incidents like the war in Ukraine, Brexit, coups d’état, elections or civil protest, it’s important for travel managers to consider the individual risk profile of each traveler in or near the destination and the specific risks they potentially face.

4. Personal risks

The unpredictable nature of kidnapping and terrorism events make traveler communication and location plans vital for travel managers, particularly in certain destinations. As travel restrictions ease, allowing more business trips to resume, disaffected individuals and groups may attempt to capitalize on the socio-economic, political and security fallout from the pandemic. Travel managers should ensure travelers receive pre-trip briefings and advice on risk mitigation measures whenever they are traveling to high-risk destinations.

5. Cyber threats

Cyber incidents can compromise individuals and entire critical infrastructures. The transactional nature of the travel industry, and the legacy systems on which many companies still rely heavily, make it an attractive target. Financial gain isn’t the only motivation for hackers. Sometimes hackers commit an attack simply to prove that they can. In more sinister circumstances, state sponsored attacks on companies and infrastructure may be part of a political play. Travel managers and travelers both have a role to play in cybersecurity defense. Both must first recognize cybersecurity as a daily risk to travel and take responsibility for tackling it. Digital awareness and safety training will help prevent, or at least minimize the impact, and will pay dividends over simply responding to cyber incidents after they’ve happened.

6. Health risks

The pandemic hasn’t ended, but this hasn’t stopped us getting back on with our lives, and business travel. Beyond COVID-19, other viruses and health crises never went away and still pose a threat to business travelers. Travelers need to reacquaint themselves with the risks and check for health alerts, even when traveling to familiar destinations. Travel managers can help educate their people about the diseases to which they may once again be exposed as they resume their travels.

7. Remote work, real threats

Digital nomadism and remote work were also named as top business travel trends for 2022 but these emerging work environments are subject to real threats. Cybersecurity is the most apparent risk, as remote working has significantly increased the number of employees accessing company systems using devices that may be more vulnerable to attack. But the risks to the employee and employer may can be much less obvious than this. The Guardian news outlet reported a case of a German worker who was allowed a claim on workplace accident insurance because he was judged to be technically commuting, when he slipped and broke his back walking from his bedroom to his home office. In many countries, companies have a duty of care to employees, wherever they are working.

For complete insights on each of these trends, click here.

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