Rethink the unpredictable risks of business travel

01 February 2018 ,  —


New data reveals business travel risks for Australasia based businesses are more predictable than currently perceived

Today International SOS releases new travel risk mitigation insight titled ‘Rethink Unpredictable’, which pulled together the last three financial years of regional business travel medical, security and assistance case data and expert analysis to determine upcoming business travel trends that challenge the concept of volatile travel risks. 

rethink unpredictable main image

Challenging this concept is important to our region as 7 in 10 (72%) Australasia based business travel health and security personnel say travel risks have increased over the past year1. Of those risks, 64% of Australia and New Zealand respondents think terrorism increased in 20162. Despite that perception, terrorism-related deaths around the world decreased both in 2016 and 2017, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s annual Global Terrorism Index3. 

Less than 1% of the security alerts sent out by International SOS in the 2016-17 fiscal year related to terrorist warnings and events. Security Director – Australasia for International SOS, Sally Napper, said, “Despite the increased coverage of terrorism in the news, travellers are far more likely to encounter road traffic accidents, petty crime, illness or other issues such as a lost passport or flight delays that disrupt travel and can impact business continuity.”

Debunking the difference in perceived travel security threats versus real destination risks is an important travel security issue impacting Australasia-based businesses today. “The majority of travel security calls we take in our Assistance Centres focus on pre-travel advice and education aimed at helping travellers mitigate common threats they may face overseas,” said Napper. Other trending travel security concerns include understanding individual traveller risk profiles, protecting company data, and keeping up with the changing risk environment in different countries. 

Along with analysing security trends, Rethink Unpredictable also focuses on medical travel risks. A few of the emerging health preoccupations impacting regional businesses include stress and mental health issues, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the changing medico-legal environment, and the use of telehealth to optimise expert care whilst travelling. 

It would be easy to assume that the vast majority medical cases happen in high-risk countries; however, almost half (43%) of medical cases managed by the International SOS Sydney Assistance Centre between 2016 and 2017 occurred in low to medium risk countries. Less than 1% of all cases require a costly and disruptive evacuation, but case data shows the most common cause of medical evacuations (38%) in the corporate sector are due to cardiovascular diseases and almost half (44%) of all in-patient cases of clients in the education sector are related to injuries. This new data shows these risks are not as unpredictable as they seem.
“While each medical case is unique, over the years we’ve found a common theme in the health risks travellers face, which is that most of them can be mitigated by systemic and comprehensive planning,” said Dr Nhlanhla Mpofu, Medical Director – Occupational Health at International SOS. 

From a minor medical condition to support during social unrest, it’s much less costly in human impact, time efficiency and hard cost terms to have appropriate support in place. Travel risk mitigation programs focus on prevention, risk mitigation, and risk avoidance while helping to prepare people before they travel and assisting managers to make better decisions about managing risk before anything happens.


80% of Assistance Centre calls are about pre-travel advice and education. 15% require outpatient visits, 4% require inpatient visits, and less than 1% involves evacuations and repatriations.

The most prevalent medical issues faced by mobile workers vary based on their industry. For example:

  1. Corporate sector
     38% of all evacuations are due to cardiovascular diseases
     20% of in-patient medical centre visits are due to gastrointestinal issues
     13% of out-patient visits are due to gastrointestinal issues

  2. Education sector
     65% of all evacuations are due to injuries
     44% of in-patient medical centre visits are due to injuries
     17% of out-patient visits are due to gastrointestinal issues

  3. Extracting sector
     44% of all evacuations are due to injuries
     19% of in-patient medical centres visits are due to muscle, bone, and join diseases
     17% of out-patient visits are due to gastrointestinal issues

For the results on the agribusiness, non-for-profit and financial services sector, along with other information on the top challenges businesses face in protecting their mobile workforce, visit


International SOS ( is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company. We care for clients across the globe, from more than 850 locations in 92 countries. Our expertise is unique: More than 11,000 employees are led by 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists. Teams work night and day to protect our members. We pioneer a range of preventive programs strengthened by our in-country expertise. We deliver unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident or civil unrest. We are passionate about helping clients put ‘Duty of Care’ into practice. With us, multinational corporate clients, governments and NGOs can mitigate risks for their people working remotely or overseas.

Notes to Editors

1Ipsos MORI study commissioned by International SOS. (2017). Business resilience trends watch 2018
2Ipsos MORI study comm. by Intl.SOS. (2016). Travel Risks & Reality: The new normal for business.
3Institute for Economics & Peace. (2017). Global Terrorism Index.