2020 Forecast: The Top Business Travel Risks and How to Mitigate Them

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By Mike Eggleton, Director of Research & Intelligence

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about travel, it’s that there are no guarantees a trip will go according to plan. From losing passports to travelers getting stuck waiting for a heavy storm to pass, there are plenty of things that can disrupt a trip, even with the best organized travel itineraries.  

Some of those risks are beyond your control, but as a business travel manager, you’ve still got to put contingency plans in place. To do that, you’ll need to know what’s most likely to affect your travelers and BCD Travel‘s 2020 Industry Forecast has the answers. Here are the top travel risks for 2020, and how you can prepare.  

Terrorism – What Can Travel Managers Do?

As the forecast points out, terrorism is a global risk travel managers must consider. While there’s often no direct threat to business travelers, anything can happen in a volatile situation. It’s not unusual to see news about organized acts of aggression in popular business travel destinations. And though security services are in the frontline of efforts to mitigate these threats, there’s always an outside chance of disruption – or worse. 

What can travel managers do about terrorist threats? The most important thing is being aware of possibly contentious situations in your company’s top business travel markets. Stay aware of guidance from embassies, consulates, and state security services about which destinations are safe – and which aren’t. Be prepared to pull the plug on a planned trip if necessary, to ensure travelers’ safety. 

Health – Know the Risks

Recently, diseases that were thought to be under control, like measles, mumps and rubella, have started to resurface in some places. That’s bad news. Even worse, the World Health Organization (WHO) says regular outbreaks of deadly diseases are “the new normal; the new coronavirus outbreak is a timely reminder of this prediction. Deforestation, climate change, increased global travel, and geopolitical conflicts all make the spread of dangerous diseases more likely. 

As a business travel manager, you’re likely already advising travelers about required immunizations. Keep doing that and stay on top of the latest guidance on travel to areas that might pose health risks. The WHO, Centers for Disease Control, and your government’s guidance for travelers are all useful resources to help with this effort. 

Staying Aware of Natural Disasters

Something else that’s increasingly normal is the occurrence of super storms and other extreme weather and climate events. Sure, hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons have been affecting people for centuries. However, it pays to be aware that these may be more destructive and disruptive than in the past and advise your business travelers accordingly.  

Understanding the Geopolitical Climate

With recent election results around the world, the global geopolitical climate is shifting.  

The 2020 Industry Forecast shows an increase in the election of populist leaders prepared to challenge established norms of international communication and trade. This can lead to heightened tensions and potential for conflict in some parts of the world.  

While travelers may not be directly affected, there may be indirect consequences of the changing geopolitical climate. And travelers of particular gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation could also find themselves at risk in certain locations. It’s another issue for travel managers to be aware of. 

4 Ways to Mitigate Business Travel Risks

In this climate, it makes sense for business travel managers to pay some extra attention to how they can prepare for and mitigate risks to their travelers. Here’s what the 2020 Industry Forecast suggests: 

1. Assess Travel Program Security

A good first step is to assess and upgrade your duty of care strategy. Ensure that you have policies governing traveler safety, and make sure travelers are aware of them. Items to include are: 

  • An assessment of responsibility for different travel risks 
  • A protocol for travelers to contact the company if they feel their safety or security are threatened 
  • A protocol for the company to contact travelers to make them aware of events that threaten their safety or security 

2. Implement an Alert System

On a related note, travel managers need to know where travelers are at all times. And they also need a way to let them know about potential risks. Since most travelers have cellphones and mobile devices, a mobile alert system is a useful option. This can prompt travelers to check in and let travel managers know if they’re safe. And this can also help travel managers update travelers with necessary information.  

Make sure travelers know that they have an obligation to let you know they’re safe, also known as the “duty of loyalty.” Include this in your travel policy. You can also consider building an alert system into your online travel management solution. 

3. Keep Emergency Numbers Handy

The last thing travelers need in a pressured situation is to have difficulty in contacting the company. Instead, make it easy for travelers to keep all relevant company contact details at hand.  

With the right app, they can have one-tap access to key parts of the company intranet. This makes it easy for them to find guidance on safety and security, travel policies, trip details, and contact information for local partners who might be able to help in a risky situation. 

4. Customize Risk Management with Third-party Partnerships

If you need to get more from your travel risk management program, consider partnering with third-party providers to create a risk management solution that’s uniquely tailored to your company’s needs. Providers like Anvil, International SOS and WorldAware, can help you expand and tailor corporate travel risk management programs to meet your unique business needs.  

Don’t Forget About Everyday Risks

While travel managers have to be aware of and prepare for terrorism, health issues, natural disasters, and the geopolitical climate, it’s worth remembering that there are other risks that are far more common for business travelers. Falling ill, getting mugged, losing a document, or other valuable items are risks every traveler faces. The good news is that the plans you put in place for the bigger risks will make it easier to support travelers through the smaller ones.  

Another important thing to remember is that the top travel risks are always changing. Be on the lookout for the upcoming Travel Risk Survival Guide, the next Inform Report from BCD Travel, to learn how to tackle some of the key issues mentioned in this blog. 

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