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How Have Current World Events Impacted International Travel?


Rarely have current world events impacted international travel on this large of a scale as they have over the past few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This global crisis destabilised and challenged the normality of international travel, as we used to know it. 

According to the World Tourism Organization the pandemic declined by a staggering 73% in 2020 and compared to 2019, with a shortfall of 1 billion travellers.  In 2021 global tourism experienced a 4% upturn.

More than two years on, as we continue to navigate through COVID-19 travellers are still experiencing this seismic ‘travel shock’. Although some pre-departure testing and quarantine requirements have eased, cancelled flights and staff shortages, attributed to a pandemic economic recovery, continue to blight the industry. 

It is not only recreational travel that is affected. Organisations with overseas operations that are reliant on international travel are continuing to experience new challenges to ensuring resilience for their mobile workforce.

Non-Pandemic Related World Events

Even though the pandemic has been the recent primary driver of change to travel risks and related uncertainty, other health and security developments continue to complicate the travel risk landscape. 

Labour shortages and industrial action have impacted flight and rail schedules, whereas supply chain disruption and increased fuel costs have increased operational costs. 

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and volcanoes have temporarily disrupted common travel routes. In January 2022, a volcanic eruption in Tonga, created a giant ash cloud that temporarily caused flight disruptions throughout the Pacific.  Environmental factors like the avalanche caused by the Marmolada glacier collapse in Italy for instance, caused travel restrictions in the Italian Alps which would have impacted travellers.  

Security incidents, elections and world sporting events have also played their part in disrupting  international travel.

Travelling with Confidence

Based on International SOS’ case data from 2019, we have seen business international travel recover to 44% compared to pre-COVID levels.  As of July 2022, there has also been a 15% average monthly growth of international travel in the last twelve months.

Although this is a positive sign on the outlook of the return to international business travel, ongoing or additional potential disruption from world events requires a restoration in traveller confidence. 

A layered threat environment in countries that include those with historically low risk, also creates a greater responsibility on organisations to review their travel information, advise and training to employees.

As we see pandemic-focused restrictions start to ease, we see a growing appetite for global mobility. However, the need to empower and educate travellers is more critical now than ever.

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In Summary

Our travel trends and behaviour have changed dramatically in a short space of time. Even confident veteran travellers have assumed a more novice status as they return to travel, even to familiar destinations. 

Ultimately, there are always going to be factors, natural or otherwise, that influence international travel.

If you are an international traveller, it is recommended to keep abreast of current world events. Assessing and mitigating the risks involved when travelling abroad will help influence your final decision. 

The same principle applies if you are an employer with business travellers. Consider how current world events may impact your organisation's business resilience and operational efficiency. Aligning your travel risk management process to industry standards is key.  

The health, safety and security of your employees is paramount. Implementing a robust travel risk standard, such as ISO 31030, is vital to today’s business travellers. For your business, this is the best course of action in a changing environment.

How we can Support you

International SOS has been at the forefront of supporting and advising on travel risks for decades. To access the health and security risks in location, visit our Travel Risk Map. Simply enter your designation to map your location risk profile.

Our experts are on hand to help navigate the complexities of travel, whether to update policies or plans, discuss operational challenges and threats or to provide pre-travel advice.


With organisations returning to travel and understanding how to go about this safely, the new ISO 31030:2021 provides vital guidance on how to protect your workforce. To evaluate your travel risk approach, our security and health experts have created a five-minute assessment which provides a customised report that you can take directly to your management.