UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS – As travel resumes, there will be a broader set of risks to be faced, beyond those associated with the pandemic, according to BCD Travel’s just released Travel Risk Outlook report. This new 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 IATA, IPCC, 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: The health of the economy may be the biggest underlying challenge faced by travel programs, as it influences the pressure companies face to control their costs and therefore their travel budgets.
2. Climate change and extreme weather events: Statistics from BCD show an increase of travel disruptions from natural events. In 2020, the number of incidents per million airline passengers increased by 82% year-over-year, with a further 23% rise recorded in 2021. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the next two decades will herald unavoidable multiple climate hazards.
3. Geopolitical developments: The war in Ukraine is providing a sobering reminder of the disruptive power of geo-political risk factors and how quickly they can escalate. To keep travelers safe, it’s key to have a comprehensive travel risk management program in place and to stay abreast of such events.
4. Personal risk: The random nature of kidnappings or terrorism makes locating and communicating with business travelers a vital part of a travel manager’s role.
5. Cyber security: The sudden shift to remote working during the pandemic has increased the exposure of company IT systems to external threats. With 31% of all employees worldwide expected to be hybrid or fully remote workers in 20221, these risks are unlikely to disappear.
6. Health threats: 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 concerned2 about the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, one that is highly transmissible and capable of evading existing vaccines.
7. New world, new travel risks: The transition to remote working is changing the way we work and travel. To ensure that all employees, not just travelers, are protected when working remotely, companies should consider a shift from travel risk management to people risk management. Urban air mobility is on the rise with sustainable solutions and commercial space travel becoming a reality in 2021. Though still an expensive extravagance, its development marks a first step toward wider commercial use.
“Travelers will be exposed to a wider range of risks as business travel rebounds,” said Jorge Mesa, Director of Global Crisis Management at BCD Travel. “Companies should refamiliarize themselves with these risks and ensure travelers 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.”
Structural changes of risks
While day-to-day risks like flight disruptions, theft or lost luggage remain, reports from BCD’s GCM team show 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% of all incidents in 2021 (up from 18% in 2018).
- Civil unrest and incidents of violence represent 20% of all risk-related events in 2021 (up from 15% in 2018). This shows that risk is not confined to the journey to/from a destination; travelers 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% in 2018 to 20% in 2021. This doesn’t necessarily mean fewer flight disruptions. Given the rise in rail incidents (up from 15% in 2018 to 20% in 2021), it could be that travelers are using alternative means of transport or taking fewer trips that require air travel.
“Clearly, not all organizations 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 organizations. 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.”