Business travellers are more anxious about international travel, citing disruptions, geopolitical threats, pandemic risks and security threats as key areas of concern.
While the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions around business travel have eased, there are mixed feelings among employees now international meetings are back on the agenda.
In a new survey commissioned by global travel risk management firm, World Travel Protection, only a fifth (20%) of employees said they are happy to be travelling for work again.
Furthermore, 18% are now more concerned about their health and well-being while travelling, with this figure rising to a quarter (24%) of over 55s.
According to the survey, which was carried out by Opinium, one in five (17%) business travellers feel less safe than they did before the pandemic.
Business interruption is also causing concerns, particularly with regards to ongoing travel disruptions and airport staff shortages.
This is borne out by research carried out by International SOS, another global travel risk management company.
The firm’s Risk Outlook 2023 study found that the top rated factors expected to decrease employee appetite to travel in the next 12 months are:
- Travel disruptions
- Concern around geopolitical threats
- Travel bans to specific countries
- Concerns around COVID-19
- Concern around security threats
What does this mean for risk managers?
This will have a knock-on effect on organisations, particularly those that operate internationally.
The World Travel Protection study found that one in ten (12%) employees said they will now refuse to travel to places they deem unsafe and 11% would refuse a work placement abroad as they feel there are too many risks.
A further 9% say they don’t want to be based abroad for work now because of the risk of future disruptions, like a pandemic.
When asked how they feel when travelling for work, tiredness and exhaustion came out top (26%), followed by feeling anxious (22%) stressed (19%) and lonely (16%). Over one in seven (16%) also say they get homesick and miss home.
12% of employees said they will now refuse to travel to places they deem unsafe and 11% would refuse a work placement abroad as they feel there are too many risks.
This suggests organisations and their risk managers must consider more than just business travel risks, but also the threat of mental health issues among their employees.
International SOS says that the focus needs to be on how best to support apprehensive travellers.
Responders in their research said that having support provided by organisations would have the biggest impact on employee willingness to travel and on organisational likelihood to approve travel in the next 12 months.
This means risk managers and the organisations they work for will be pushed to manage more real-time information, more granular risk assessment and enhanced travel risk scrutiny, to ensure their travellers are safe, secure and productive.
This is a trend well supported by the International SOS case data. The company’s traveller tracking data shows international travel is now at 83% of pre-COVID volumes, but travellers are twice as likely to call for advice or assistance.
Kate Fitzpatrick, Regional Security Director, EMEA, at World Travel Protection, said: “For some the return to business travel has been hard, and this has not been helped by the constant threat of disruption to the best-laid plans.
“It’s essential, therefore, that business travellers feel their employer is supporting them and looking out for the best interests while they’re away.”
“To mitigate risk and alleviate concerns, organisations should ensure that travelling employees are provided with the most up-to-date information on destinations and travel routes, and consider using a travel assistance company with a live travel app which provides assistance updates in real-time.”
“It’s essential that business travellers feel their employer is supporting them and looking out for the best interests while they’re away.”
James Robertson, Regional Security Director at International SOS added: “Controls such as itinerary and dynamic tracking, checking in, and the importance of identifying ‘exposure’ to a threat… are vital to overcoming apprehension in returning to travel and to support those who are already comfortable.
“Organisations can leverage travel risk mitigation tools as employee benefits and to promote a culture of care while also balancing compliance-related requirements.”
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