Travel restrictions, quarantine procedures, and health-and-safety requirements related to the pandemic are top of mind for meeting professionals as we start off 2021. However, natural disasters, social unrest, and other potential hazards must still be on every planner’s radar.
Risk-management experts at Riskline released a report on the top travel risks for 2021 on January 6, just hours before rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol spurred by unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, underscoring event planners’ need to be ready for unlikely and even unprecedented situations.
Copenhagen-based Riskline monitors security developments, travel news, and political crises globally and have identified key trends and issues creating vulnerabilities for global travelers in 2021.
Continued Impact of Covid-19
“Travelers in most countries should continue to expect measures such as health screening, quarantine and testing, socially distanced seating arrangements, and contactless check-ins or transactions at airports, major public-transport hubs, hotels, and other facilities. Expect renewed lockdowns in high-risk areas and a reduction in capacity for transportation services of all kinds to be the new norm in 2021.”
Severity of Natural Disasters
“Due to climate change, the effects of natural disasters such as tropical and winter storms, wildfires and monsoon rainfall in 2021 will continue to be more severe, and emergency services personnel will be unable to respond to them in a timely manner in countries grappling with a new wave of COVID-19 infections. … Emergency services are still understaffed and stretched thin; most resources have been allocated towards tackling the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Overburdened Health Systems
“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed most health systems to their limits, exposing long-standing gaps in public-health infrastructure and healthcare in many countries. A World Health Organization study from 105 countries indicates that some 90 percent of countries experienced disruptions to essential healthcare services, with low- and middle-income countries reporting the greatest difficulties. … Distressingly, emergency services also experienced disruptions in many countries.” The report points to healthcare systems in Africa, the Middle East, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea as among the most vulnerable.
Social Unrest Caused by Austerity Measures
The effects of the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to be felt this year, likely forcing governments to “implement painful austerity measures, including cuts to social programs and unemployment benefits. These actions carry with them the potential to trigger popular unrest … Right-wing organizations in particular have increased their visibility and membership in the United States, Canada, and Europe to protest COVID-19 restrictions, and will likely turn their attention to castigating vaccination campaigns and seeking the ouster of incumbents on all sides of the political spectrum. Disinformation to engage a wide coalition of low-information voters will proliferate and bring together loose coalitions of wildly divergent but ‘populist’ factions.” Lack of economic opportunity, the report suggests, might also lead to a rise in violent crime in developing countries.
The Riskline analysts also point to tensions in the Middle East, destabilization in the Horn of Africa, and overall global political uncertainty related to Brexit and the change in U.S. leadership as trends to follow for travel and meeting safety in 2021.
Read the full report here.