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Extreme weather events and civil unrest pose the biggest risks to post-pandemic business travel, accounting for 44 per cent of all travel-related incidents in 2021, according to BCD Travel’s Travel Risk Outlook Report, released on Thursday.
The report, based on statistics from BCD’s global crisis management team, also incorporates research from the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Oxford Economics and the World Economic Forum.
While risks associated with a global pandemic have dominated the minds of travel managers for the last two years, the report highlights several other factors that must be recognised to ensure the safe and sustainable resumption of business travel.
Natural events such as extreme weather, earthquakes and wildfires are proving to be more disruptive. 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 IPCC the next two decades will herald unavoidable multiple climate hazards.
Civil unrest and incidents of violence, meanwhile, have accounted for around one-fifth of all risk-related events since 2019. The report flagged the current war in Ukraine as a “sobering reminder” of the disruptive power of geopolitical risk factors and highlighted the need to support travellers for the entire duration of a trip – not purely through the booking process.
The health of the global economy was also identified as a challenge for travel managers, largely due to rising travel costs. However, the economic impact of Covid-19 may not be as damaging as originally feared. Citing Oxford Economics statistics, the report highlighted that the economy is pushing back at a sharper rate than that following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
Nevertheless, risks remain. The emergence of Omicron, coupled with Russia’s subsequent invasion Ukraine, impacted growth expectations for the first quarter of 2022, which were initially scaled back from 1.25 per cent (November 2021) to just 0.17 per cent (March 2022).
Other risk factors highlighted in the report include cyber security, personal risk related to kidnapping and terrorism, and health threats such as vaccine hesitancy and the emergence of new vaccine-resistant variants of Covid-19.
“Travellers 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 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.”
The report also pointed to the new ISO 31030 travel risk standard as a way to help manage duty of care responsibilities and improve travel policy.
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