Businesses Are Modifying Travel Itineraries Due to Country Risk Ratings

Events of 2016 have resulted in a sense of increasing challenges in travel to places once thought secure.

A new study released by International SOS and Control Risks, medical and security specialists, shows that 80% of organizations modified travel itineraries in the past year due to health and security concerns.

Almost half of respondents (48%) say their organizations investment in travel risk mitigation has increased over the past year, and 47% believe this will increase further in the coming year.

The top 3 risk mitigation activities were: reinforced travel security measures (50%);  updated travel risk policy (45%); and introduced pre-trip advisory emails (39%).

Other activities were implemented travel safety training (32%); implemented programs to locate travelers (25%); provided pre-travel health programmes (22%); invested in crisis communication systems (20%); and enforced use of mobile check-in (15%).

Business decision-makers also reported the greatest challenges in mitigating travel risks. The top 3 are educating employees about travel risks (49%); communicating during a crisis (47%); and tracking employee travel (42%).

Other challenges include confirming that employees have read pre-travel information (37%); travel risk policy compliance (31%); managing a crisis (31%); business continuity planning (23%); implementing a travel risk policy (23%); confirming that employees have taken travel risk training (23%); understanding legal obligations to travelers (22%); and management buy-in of travel risk policy (18%).

However, despite an increased perception of risk (72% of respondents), 44% reported a rise in business travel activity in the past year and over half expect further increase in 2017.

Security Risks Higher on the Corporate Agenda than Healthcare

Dominating concerns on a global level are potential terror attacks (71%), followed by the Zika virus (49%) and civil unrest (46%), with inadequate healthcare and road accidents both at 15%.  However, these lesser considered, but more common, issues should also be taken seriously.

“It is vital for companies to familiarize themselves and their travelers with the health risks associated with travel and take measures to reduce those risks,” says Dr. Irene Lai, Medical Director of Information and Analysis for International SOS.

While the Zika virus has had extensive media coverage this year, common medical issues which don’t make the headlines, such as traveller’s gastric issues or running out of regular medication, are more likely and can destroy a business trip.

“Road accidents are also a major issue and one of the top five causes of medical evacuation. A number of countries showed significant improvement in deaths from road accidents in the past year, but organizations should be mindful that they remain a common major risk.”

Respondents take the following actions to mitigate risk when they travel: share itinerary with family and friends (59%); research threats at destination (54%); research vaccination requirements (42%) research attitudes, cultures and practice of local population (42%); and protect against mosquito bites (36%).

“Travelers are much less likely to encounter unexpected or avoidable problems if they plan ahead,” said Walker. “Using objective advice to prepare travelers, and by staying up to date on any changes and how they might affect plans, will further reduce, both the likelihood of people experiencing problems, and the extent of the impact.“

Communication is essential

While risks are changing, organizations must ensure their actions to mitigate those changes are proportionate, and based on reality and not perception.

Issues like healthcare provision and road safety,  can often be obscured by more prominent, but less likely issues.

“With many organizations increasing their business travel activity, it is essential for decision-makers to be able to communicate that objective advice to their people, including in an actual crisis,” says Rob Walker, Security specialist at International SOS and Control Risks.

International SOS and Control Risks has launched the industry leading Travel Risk Map for 2017.  Providing a comprehensive overview of risks by destination, the Travel Risk Map helps organizations and their mobile workforce in their travel risk mitigation efforts. Last year this resulted in almost ⅓ (32%) of decision-makers changing corporate travel plans.

“It is essential for decision-makers to have a reliable source of objective information to help them implement travel risk policies and individual travel plans,” says Walker.

“The extent of the preparation and support employees need could be determined either by medical or security risks, or by a combination of both. Companies need to take a comprehensive view when preparing their employees for travel and assignments abroad.”

“Keeping informed and taking into account all risk factors will enable business travel to proceed successfully, resulting in a protected workforce and business continuity.”