An annual study on travel risk has revealed that emerging traveller habits, both domestically and internationally, and diversification of the workforce are creating grey zones of risk.

The Travel Risk Outlook survey 2020 was conducted by International SOS, a $1.5 billion privately owned French company that assists companies in mitigating health and security risks. The company claims to have over 11,000 corporate clients, 84 in the Fortune 100 and more than 50% among the Fortune 500 companies.

As the workforce increasingly includes members of the LGBTQ community, the differently abled, and women in riskier functions, the survey points out that employers have not kept pace in keeping with their new needs. For example, only 11% companies take into account the needs of a LGBTQ traveler while it’s a percentage higher for travelers with disabilities. Shared services, like using app-based cabs, are also not high on the watch list as only 11% of employers have any rule related to availing shared services. However, nearly a third of the companies were concerned about cyber security among seven issues surveyed that included mental health issues and business leisure travel.

There were five components to the research which included the views of the Travel Risk Management Council, Business Resilience Trends Survey, Country/Region Medical & Security Risk Ratings, Travel Risk Incident Case Data and On-the-ground Medical and Security Intelligence. The Travel Risk council comprises 35 participants this year who are representative experts from health, security and safety fields relevant to travelling and work abroad and these participants were interviewed in September 2019 by a research organisation.

According to the Travel Risk council findings, risk from geopolitical shifts will be the most important mobility challenge for businesses in 2020. Concerns over mental health, physical health, cyber crime and climate change disruptions are the other four issues that make up the top five concerns for companies while drawing up travel plans.

The significant geopolitical shifts in 2020 that organisations need to consider in the U.S. are the upcoming presidential elections and the changing nature of U.S. involvement in the Middle East coupled with the threat of terrorism. If popular uprisings are a concern in South America, in Europe it will be social disturbances and identity politics. Says Udit Mehta, executive vice president (Global Security Solutions), International SOS: “In the last three years, travel risks had actually come down but more than half the respondents experienced an increase in risk in 2019 over the past years.”

The top causes for modified travel itineraries in 2019 was security risk (45%), civil unrest (38%), geopolitical threats (32%) and country risk ratings (32%). In 2020, respondents feel that security threats will account for 68% of the travel schedule changes, while civil unrest (52%) and natural disasters (51%) will the other significant causes.

Founded in 1985, International SOS group of companies employs medical, security and logistics experts to provide assistance from over 1,000 locations in 140 countries. It has offices in 90 countries and has 26 assistance centres that are always operational.

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