Geopolitical Risk Top Concern for Business Travellers

International SOS, the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company has released its annual Travel Risk Map and the threat of geopolitical uncertainty is the biggest fear for companies across the world.

The Map was launched in conjunction with the ‘Business Resilience Trend Watch’ a survey, of over 1,300 business travel decision-makers run in partnership with Ipsos MORI, which reveals critical Grey Zones of Risk and missed opportunities in harnessing technological innovations to protect the workforce.

International SOS brought together a group of representative experts of all health, security, and safety fields relevant to the risks of travelling and work abroad to form the Travel Risk Management (TRM) Council. Combining the expertise of the TRM Council and International SOS, the forecast for the Top 10 Health & Security Risks that organisations should be prioritising in 2020 are:

  1. Risks borne from geopolitical shifts will be the most important mobility challenge for businesses
  2. Mental health issues will increase in importance
  3. Physical health: organisations will be more proactive in safeguarding physical health
  4. Cyber-crime is likely to grow and be an increasing risk to security
  5. Climate change will exacerbate the occurrence of environmental disruptions
  6. Infectious disease outbreaks from established and newly emerging pathogens will increase due to multiple factors, including climate change, increasing urbanisation, diminishing vaccination coverage and security instability
  7. ‘leisure’ travel: the debate about whether an employer is responsible to cover bleisure as part of employee Duty of Care will amplify
  8. Millennial’s and Generation Z entering the workplace with different preferences, expectations and attitudes to risk, will continue to challenge businesses to evolve their risk strategies.
  9. High profile Duty of Care legal cases will increase
  10. Start-ups and SMEs that are under-resourced and inexperienced will struggle to meet Duty of Care obligations.

Doug Quarry, MD, International SOS, explained: “The threats facing organisations and their workforces are impacting established and emerging economies alike. It’s encouraging to see that decision makers are becoming increasingly aware of the threats of epidemics and infectious diseases. With over $1.7trillion expected to be invested by organisations by 2022 , without taking into account human capital and productivity impacts of travel disruption, it’s important that organisations get ahead of whatever potential disruption they can. With accurate information, tools and support in place, organisations should, and can, plan for the anticipated risks and safeguard their investment and their people.”

Emerging traveller habits, both domestically and internationally, and diversification of the workforce are creating Grey Zones of Risk. (see graphic above) Employers are not aligning travel policies with new potential risk factors, and people are choosing not to act within policy if it restricts the use of their preferred mode of transport or accommodation. Surprisingly, less than a third of organisations include cyber security in their travel policies. This could potentially open organisations up to litigation and reputation damage if they are not adhering to their Duty of Care, as well as negative consequences for employees and business.

  • Just 11% included shared economy services in their travel policy
  • Only 26% of organisations include considerations for female travellers in their travel policy
  • 31% cover cyber security
  • One in ten (11%) include considerations for LGBTQ+ travellers
  • Mental health issues are included in mere 15% of travel policies
  • Considerations for travellers with disabilities are covered by only 12%
  • Bleisure travel was covered in 22% of policies.

David Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Security Services, said: “Instability, unpredictability, rapid change and escalation are the key characteristics of many incidents in our modern world. The workforce potentially faces security risks in areas, such as accommodation choices, previously thought of as safe. Established global organisations to unicorns, regulated or otherwise, need to have their eye on this to protect their human capital and build resilience within businesses. The need is only going to increase, as over 40% of the workforce head to being mobile in some way.”