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Travel risk in 2020: top 10 predictions

Duty of Care responsibilities are becoming more exacting and harder to meet in a fast-changing global landscape. Mental health risks, the expectations of millennial employees, cybercrime and climate change are just some of the factors creating a challenging travel risk environment this year.

In 2020, turbulence has been predicted as the 'new normal' for organisations - particularly those with a global footprint whose employees cross national borders. Businesses are venturing almost everywhere to conduct business. Although this is not unexpected, the risks that organisations are facing are becoming more unpredictable and complex.

In 2019, geopolitical shifts disrupted cities like Hong Kong and Barcelona. Even in low risk destinations such as London and the Netherlands, terrorist activity triggered organisations to lock down and implement their crisis response plan.

Geopolitical shifts, the politicisation of climate change and cybercrime are some of the key challenges that organisations will face in 2020. Being able to anticipate, prioritise and mitigate these risks - to distinguish turbulence from genuine crisis - will be increasingly important, particularly as concerns over misinformation, propaganda, and fake news cast a longer shadow.

Duty of Care: what are the challenges for 2020?

Organisations, no matter their size, cannot afford to ignore their Duty of Care responsibilities - it can ultimately influence, if not define their survival. This turbulence is expected to impact organisations which can lead to consequences for those who are not readily prepared. With appropriate expertise, a robust travel risk management strategy is within the reach of every organisation to protect their human capital. 

International SOS in partnership with Ipsos MORI, have released the latest Travel Risk Outlook for 2020, predicting the top 10 disruptions that will impact global mobility. The research involves in-depth interviews with participants that form part of a Travel Risk Management Council - a group of experts from several disciplines that provide insight and knowledge of the relevant predictions.

Now in its fourth year, the survey is targeted to those who organise, influence, or are responsible for, their organisation's travel and risk mitigation policies. The survey seeks to understand whether perceptions of travel risk have changed: what health and travel security risks are of most concern to organisations and travellers? Are there significant differences in travel risk mitigation methods and concerns across regions? These survey findings represent responses from 1,346 professionals who are responsible for business travel, across 214 countries.

The top 10

The unifying trend in 2020 is that instability and speed of change is going to continue, if not increase. The results of the survey identified the top 10 predictions likely to impact organisations in 2020:

  1. Risks borne from geopolitical shifts will be the most important mobility challenge for businesses in 2020;
  2. Mental health issues will increase in importance in 2020;
  3. Organisations will need to be more proactive in safeguarding physical health in 2020;
  4. Cybercrime is likely to grow and be an increasing risk to security in 2020;
  5. Climate change will exacerbate the occurrence of environmental disruptions in 2020;
  6. Infectious disease outbreaks from established and newly emerging pathogens will increase in 2020 due to multiple factors, including climate change, increasing urbanisation, diminishing vaccination coverage and security instability;
  7. The debate about whether an employer is responsible to cover any leisure aspects of their business trip - 'Bleisure' travel as it has been coined - as part of employee Duty of Care will amplify in 2020;
  8. Younger generations will continue to pose a challenge to business in 2020;
  9. There will be more high profile Duty of Care legal cases in 2020;
  10. Young organisations will struggle to meet Duty of Care obligations in 2020.

Millennials will vote with their feet

Employees now have exacting expectations of their workplaces and are willing to 'vote with their feet' if these aren't being met. Millennials now make up one in three of the workforce, with Generation Z coming up in their slipstream. All the evidence suggests they're demanding more from employers in terms of environmental, social and governance (ESG) responsibility.

Organisations must now offer much more than a competitive salary - increasingly, employees (and customers) care about what we stand for, as much as what we sell. So if we, as employers, don't commit to Duty of Care, we risk being left behind in the global war for talent.

The findings of this report are a valuable resource for leaders seeking to navigate through turbulent times and make their organisation more resilient. To find out more, see the webinar below.

This article was written by International SOS & Ipsos Mori. Click here to find out more about International SOS's 2020 travel risk outlook and to listen to their 2020 webcast.