New survey reveals concerns related to travel disruptions, mental health and safety; plus, low confidence in employer’s ability to help in an emergency.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK — A global survey of business travelers reveals the top safety concerns of US and Canadian business travelers in a post-pandemic world, including how they expect their employers to mitigate these concerns and ensure safe travel. The Opinium survey was commissioned by World Travel Protection (WTP), a leading global travel risk management organization.
- Only one third of business travelers in the US and Canada say they are happy to be traveling for work again; less than one third feel travel is “essential” for their jobs
- About 8 in 10 say delays and disruptions are their biggest concern when traveling; other concerns include losing a phone/laptop, being a target of crime, and catching COVID-19
- 30% of US business travelers and 25% of Canadians say they are more concerned about their health and well-being when traveling now versus before the pandemic – many report feeling stressed, exhausted, homesick, and anxious
- Only a small majority of business travelers believe their organization would be able to help if they had an emergency (60% of US business travelers and 54% of Canadians) while traveling abroad
- A quarter prefer to avoid countries where women’s rights aren’t protected, and nearly 7 in 10 agree it’s less safe to travel as a woman than a man
Overall, just one third of business travelers in North America say they are happy to be traveling for work again (Can 36%; US 33%). Even fewer think that travel is “essential” for their jobs today (US 31%; Can 23%).
Delays and disruptions are the biggest cause of concern (US 82%; Can 78%), as well as catching COVID-19 and having to isolate (US 70%; Can 70%) and losing a phone or laptop (US 69%; Can 69%). Other concerns include being hacked using an unsecured WiFi network (US 76%; Can 63%), being the victim of a crime (US 72%; Can 66%), and experiencing geopolitical threats (US 69%; Can 63%).
Mental health is top-of-mind
Almost one third of US business travelers (30%) and a quarter of Canadians (25%) say they are more concerned about their health and well-being while traveling now, compared to before the pandemic. When traveling for work, many report feeling stressed (US 41%; Can 30%), exhausted (US 38%; Can 30%), homesick (US 32%; Can 28%), and anxious (US 31%; Can 27%).
Homesickness and deteriorating mental health are becoming more pronounced among travelers since the pandemic, says Dr. Joel Lockwood, Chief Medical Officer, Canada, World Travel Protection. “The stress of travel and being away from traditional support networks is challenging for many people, and this is compounded by a burnout created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The severity of episodes and shortness of onset are certainly key areas to watch.”
Issues of safety are more of a concern for women
Almost 7 in 10 business travelers agree that traveling for work as a woman is less safe than traveling as a man (US 67%; Can 67%). About a quarter of those surveyed prefer not to travel to countries where women’s rights aren’t protected (US 25%; Can 27%), but many more women than men have this sentiment (US 31% women vs. 20% men; Can 44% women vs. 12% men).
A majority of business travelers say they would like their employer to check in more often when they are traveling (US 61%; Can 50%). Notably, three fourths say they would decline a business trip if they didn’t feel confident that their employer was prioritizing their safety (US 78%; Can 74%).
Not all travelers are confident their company would help in an emergency
Only a small majority of business travelers feel their organization would be able to help if they had an emergency (US 60%; Can 54%) or required medical help (US 57%; Can 50%) while traveling abroad. Even fewer business travelers think their companies would help if they were to lose their passport and/or money (US 49%; Can 40%), if there were a major weather event or natural disaster (US 44%; Can 40%), or if there was a domestic incident (US 41%; Can 31%).
Many take some safety precautions into their own hands. Business travelers report always making sure family or work knows where they are at all times (US 46%; Can 42%); not traveling or going out on their own at night (US 24%; Can 27%); and making sure to wear a wedding ring, even if it is fake, to avoid unwanted attention (US 23%; Can 15%). Some also admit to putting an obstacle against a hotel room door to stop intruders (US 22%; Can 12%).
Companies provide little practical information on how to stay safe, say travelers
While a majority of business travelers say their employers expresses concern about their well-being while traveling (US 78%; Can 70%), less than 3 in 10 say they are provided with practical advice in advance of traveling, such as a number to call if something goes wrong (US 29%; Can 24%), a full briefing on the destination (US 28%; Can 22%), or information on what to do if involved in an accident (US 28%; Can 21%).
“What some employers may not understand is that they have a Duty of Care, or legal obligation, to prevent their employees from reasonably foreseeable risks,” says Grace Patenall, Global Chief Legal Officer, World Travel Protection. “This includes having a travel risk management (TRM) policy in place, with sound, strategic steps that reflect the realities of the changing landscape and safeguard the wellbeing of their employees who travel.
“Organizations that either don’t have a TRM strategy or are not communicating this to their traveling employees in advance of departure are not only putting their travelers at risk, but also the reputation of the organization.”
Survey reveals misperceptions about the role of embassies and governments in an emergency
Worryingly, should they encounter an emergency while traveling, North American business travelers are misinformed about what to expect from their embassies and governments. While almost three fourths believe their embassy will help them get medical treatment if needed (US 73%; Can 70%) and a majority think their government would pay to get them home (US 62%; Can 55%), this is not always the case.
“There can be misguided beliefs about the type of support that embassies and governments provide,” says Frank Harrison, Regional Security Director, North America, World Travel Protection. “We hear this a lot both from travelers and organizations, who seem to think that all they need is a quick visit to their home country’s Embassy or High Commission and all will be fine.
“Unfortunately, while embassies and governments may provide certain services, such as a list of physicians and hospitals, they typically won’t make decisions about a traveler’s medical care or pay to evacuate them home.”
Assistance apps help keep travelers safe – but few use them
While seven in 10 business travelers say their organization provides them with a travel assistant app (US 79%; Can 69%), very few report that they are required to use them (US 11%; Can 7%). Further, even when “encouraged” by their organization to download a travel assistance app, only a small percentage of travelers say they have done so (US 21%; Can 21%).
Says Harrison: “Organizations and their travelers should know that technology now exists to help them take a much more proactive approach to protecting travelers and helping them to understand exactly what to expect at their destination and if there are any risks.”
The benefits are significant, he adds. “Through a secure travel app downloaded to a traveler’s phone, organizations can be in touch with travelers immediately, wherever they are and respond in real time to locate, communicate, assist, and potentially extract people across borders, time zones, and governments.”
The main reason business travelers don’t use the travel assistance app provided by their company is their own confidence in knowledge about the destination (US 32%; Can 25%), followed by not thinking they need one given they’re only traveling to areas they consider “safe” (US 27%; Can 24%) and always traveling as part of a group (US 22%; Can 14%).
Other reasons travelers are not using assistance apps include concerns around data privacy and worrying it’s a cyber security risk (US 21%; Can 16%), not wanting to share data with an outside company (US 20%; Can 19%), and not wanting their company to know their whereabouts while traveling on business (US 19%; Can 14%) or while taking personal time or days (US 18%; Can 14%).
It’s truly a riskier-than-ever environment for travelers, says Harrison. “Once ‘safe’ locations are not immune from unpredictable climatic events, unrest related to economic instability, heightened crime, and more. Travel assistance apps are one way to keep travelers safe, and help them in the event of an emergency.”
Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (traveldailynews.gr, traveldailynews.com and traveldailynews.asia). Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.
She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.