Emanuele Scansani, director of partnerships and strategic relations, Riskline
Having obliterated the travel world for nearly two years, the Covid-19 pandemic in 2022 will no longer be the primary risk to business travellers, nor the principal duty of care concern for travel managers.
While it’s impossible to predict precisely what will happen next year, our worldwide network of risk intelligence specialists analyse information from trusted sources and use their deep understanding of repeated patterns of human behaviour to interpret this and suggest what may happen. And in 2022 we expect Covid-19 to be among a raft of risk and duty of care concerns as business travellers get back on the road again.
Safety, security and sustainability will be the prime considerations in 2022. Covid-19 is sure to be in the top five travel risks again, but the impact of climate change in its broadest sense is likely to have the greatest influence.
Firstly, what travel managers are requesting from their suppliers has changed; they want detailed sustainability information as they must consider their company’s carbon footprint. This is closely aligned with the rise of purposeful travel – thinking about the ROI of travel before booking, travelling directly by the most eco-friendly mode of transport possible, and taking into consideration any negative impact on communities along the way.
Equally of concern is how climate change is affecting weather patterns and the number of natural disasters we are seeing today. Storms, wildfires, extreme temperatures and monsoons continue to be more severe and to disrupt travel – so too volcanic eruptions.
One of the consequences of this extreme weather is large-scale forced migration which creates havoc on particular routes and at borders. What is happening between Belarus, Poland and Germany, and from North Africa to Italy and through Turkey are good examples.
Geopolitical changes will also add new tensions to the world order, potentially introducing new considerations for travellers and travel managers. The Biden administration’s isolationist approach has left space for other countries like China, for instance, to increase their dominance in Hong Kong, and flex their muscles in Taiwan and the South China Sea, while in Europe there is set to be a change in the power balance following Angela Merkel’s leadership in Germany.
Unfortunately, terrorism is likely to return as the level of hatred and anger increases, with not only Islamist attacks but also right-wing extremists continuing to be a potent threat. Travellers need to be more vigilant than ever about such threats and ensure that they have the best possible information sources and avoid local rumours.
In 2021 there have been several major cyber attacks such as the Colonial Pipeline breach and the ransomware attack on Brenntag. Without any new deterrents, further attacks are likely in 2022 as businesses, governments and organisations continue to migrate more business functions and operations to the digital world.
Of course, Covid-19 is still with us and remains a significant threat to travellers. Although many countries have rolled out vaccination programmes, many lower income countries have not double-vaccinated more than half their populations – and some far less.
At the same time, the long-term efficacy of the vaccines is uncertain. The rising number of cases in the UK is partially due to the need to give a booster to those who were vaccinated early in the year. What’s more, the possibility of new variants that are not suppressed by existing vaccines remains a threat. On top of this, anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protests are likely to create scenarios in city centres that travellers should be informed to avoid.
Compared with the extensive disruptions in 2020 and 2021, travel in 2022 may be slightly easier and less uncertain, but trusted sources of up-to-date information about potential threats will remain vital.