High-profile events such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and medical crises continued to dominate headlines last year, making travel risk management planning and strategy an even greater priority for organizations in 2018. But amid all the chatter, how can risk professionals hone in on the themes that really matter to their travelers and their organizations? Our Vice President of Security, Ryan DeStefano, shares seven industry trends and predictions that should be on your risk management radar this year—and how you can effectively respond to an increasingly complex travel climate in 2018 (and beyond).
1. Travel Sector Growth: As concerning as world events have been, DeStefano does not anticipate they will have a lasting economic impact on travel and tourism in 2018. First, the world continues to become more accessible than in prior generations, allowing professors, undergrad and postgrad students the opportunity to more easily gain first-hand exposure to their areas of focus. Baby boomers also create a wide pool of consumers, many of whom possess leisure money to spend on travel. And the millennial generation, which has surpassed the boomers in size, has been seen not only to delay job hunting in favor of travel, but also appears more inclined than previous generations to favor global adventure trips and social causes. Additionally, international companies recognize the economic growth in developing markets and are investing in business travel to these regions as a result.
2. Shared Economy Services: Advancements in travel technology and the rise of the sharing economy make it easier, more enjoyable, and more affordable to travel than ever before. As such, DeStefano anticipates ride sharing and home sharing services will continue to increase in popularity, resulting in increased utilization by the travel sector. However, he stresses that there are inherent risks in these services when it comes to safety and security, all of which can be very dependent upon the market. “Travelers should conduct strong due diligence on these providers within the local context and try to base decisions off referrals from credible sources. For example, in some countries, it may be wiser to lodge in reputable hotels that provide security assurances rather than rent from unknown local owners. Solo travelers need to be aware of their surroundings and ensure someone is aware of their journey plans.”
3. Information & Cyber Security: As we become even more attached to our phones, travelers may be at risk if they’re not practicing good tech habits. DeStefano recommends avoiding open Wi-Fi networks and public charging stations in airports etc. as they may be rigged to steal information. Instead, stick to password protected networks and consider investing in a portable charger or battery pack. For a more reliable and secure form of communication, DeStefano opts for buying a local SIM card or purchasing a phone upon arrival (making sure to research a destination beforehand to reveal the more reputable and cost-effective providers).
4. Female Solo Travel: As many risk and security professionals like DeStefano can attest, there are increased risks to female travelers especially in certain regions. Comprehensive research of the area, establishing routine check-in plans, and encouraging personal safety devices that can sound an alarm or be monitored are all things female travelers should consider. While sole female travel should in no way be discouraged, it should be handled within the context of the associated risks.
5. Political Uncertainty and Unrest: In 2017, we witnessed an array of political protests that disrupted clients’ travel plans, including violent turmoil in Venezuela, massive demonstrations in Turkey, political rallies in Barcelona, and unrest in Jerusalem. Regime changes, contested elections, and political uncertainty in locations like Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Honduras also caused further interruptions to planned itineraries. As we move further into 2018, DeStefano expects the political landscape across the globe to remain in flux as world leaders continue to grapple with challenges like the growing rise in nationalism, the effects of global warming, and the decentralization of extremist organizations. The situation on the Korean Peninsula also garners some concerns for travelers, especially as the Winter Olympics in South Korea draws near. However, even after the conclusion of the 2018 Olympics, the geopolitical reality of North Korea’s goal to be a nuclear power will continue to influence both foreign policy around the world and emergency travel planning in the Korean Peninsula Region.
6. Security Presence and Visibility: International security issues and political instability have proven to reach across borders quite easily, and most countries are advancing their security postures accordingly. In 2017, we saw airports across the globe enact enhanced security measures, and continued efforts by travel officials to increase security measures are expected to further impact the travel sector in 2018. “Airports are not the only venues where security measures will be heightened in 2018. Travelers should also expect to see an increased security posture in ‘soft target’ venues like hotels, malls, concert venues, restaurants, transportation hubs, and even malls,” says DeStefano.
7. Emergency Preparation & Situational Awareness: Finally, recent years have shown that travelers should think more diligently about what to do during an emergency situation. Whether it’s a terrorist attack targeted at a popular destination like Paris, a devastating hurricane season such as the one in the Caribbean last year, or the recent power outage that crippled the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport, many travelers find themselves in crises without any real idea of how to react. Training plays a fundamental role in staying safe amid these types of situations and moving toward purposeful action—it also helps build situational awareness, a deceptively simple (but often overlooked) concept.
As DeStefano puts it, “Situational awareness is that sweet spot between being oblivious and overly paranoid. It essentially comes down to paying attention, knowing what to look out for, and trusting one’s instincts. In order to accomplish this, traveler education is key: at the end of the day, those who are properly educated travel more safely because they’re removing fear and replacing it with knowledge.”