With the 2024 Chinese Lunar New Year drawing near, a peak in international travel, as well as domestic travel across China is expected. While enjoying the festive holiday, it's important not to overlook various health and safety risks associated with travel, especially when planning trips abroad, where some regions may pose geopolitical and social unrest risks. International SOS, the world's leading health and security risk services company, has issued travel safety tips for the New Year period. The firm urges organisations to provide necessary health and safety support to their employees as well as their families, to effectively manage travel risks, ensure employee wellbeing and business continuity.
According to forecasts released by the Ministry of Transport of China, the 40-day New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, travel period (25 January to 5 March) is expected to see about nine billion domestic trips for travel, family visits and leisure1, potentially setting a new historical record of traffic. Data from relevant travel agencies and tourism platforms also show that with the approach of the New Year holiday, the volume of outbound travel bookings has seen a significant increase compared to the same period last year, and is expected to usher in the first outbound travel peak of the year.2
Dr Echo Li, Medical Director of Assistance Centre at International SOS, cautions,
With the rapid resumption of domestic and international travel in China, cross-province and cross-regional travel will make a comeback this New Year holiday, especially with a significant rise in popularity of winter sports and warm-weather destination holidays. Travellers must pay special attention to extreme weather changes, dressing appropriately to guard against cold waves and other severe conditions. In addition, organisations can provide remote medical support services for their employees as well as providing mental health support.
Yingyan Zhang, Senior Travel Risk Manager at International SOS, says
Travelling during the holiday period requires vigilance on security risks, including extreme weather, criminal activity and crowd accidents. Security threats such as fraud and petty theft tend to be more pronounced while travelling and in crowded locations. It has been observed that over the past 20 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of security incidents globally where large crowds have resulted in serious consequences such as stampedes and injuries. 3
Geopolitical shifts, socio-economic turbulence, natural disasters and diverse threats necessitate a heightened awareness of evolving risks and preparedness for potential emergencies. Organisations should also emphasise the importance of pre-trip measures and maintaining situational awareness. Clear communication mechanisms should also be established to ensure that real-time alerts and timely support can be provided for unexpected security situations.
International SOS provides health and safety travel tips for the Chinese New Year Holiday:
- Preventing Common Diseases: To prevent respiratory diseases, ensure good personal hygiene practices, get adequate rest and engage in moderate physical exercise. Additionally, vaccinations can help reduce the risk of viral respiratory infections. Pay attention to gastrointestinal health and avoid diseases caused by overeating or excessive alcohol consumption.
- Prevention of Injury: If participating in higher risk sports or activities, it is recommended to rationally assess the risk. Ensure the use of protective gear to reduce the risk of accidental injury. Falls are one of the most common causes of injury. Pay special attention and take care when walking on slippery roads and ice.
- Road Safety Awareness: Be informed on the traffic regulations, road and weather conditions, as well as driving habits in destination country.
- Attention to Extreme Weather: Keep up to date about weather alerts and take necessary precautions for potential disruptions. If travelling to the Northern Hemisphere, be prepared for increased risk of widespread cold waves this winter. While in the Southern Hemisphere, many countries may be experiencing frequent heavy rainfalls.
- Avoid Cultural Conflicts: Respect the local customs and traditions of the travel destination, particularly when visiting religious sites, where appropriate attire may be essential. Avoid participation in activities that could be considered offensive.
- Prioritise Health and Security Risks When Travelling Abroad: With climate change intensifying the outbreak of various infectious diseases, travellers should closely monitor the risk of infectious diseases at their destinations, particularly the risks of dengue fever, malaria, and zika virus transmissions. It is also important to be informed about local medical resources. Additionally, stay vigilant and avoid travelling to areas of social unrest.
- Maintain Flexibility in Travel Plans: Travellers should be prepared for unexpected situations and keep their departure, return dates and routes as flexible as possible. Airports, stations and roads may become crowded due to increased travel volumes. It is advisable to allocate extra time for travel.
- Enhance Mental Health Resilience: During the holiday and upon returning to work, employees might experience travel-related stress, anxiety or post-holiday blues. Organisations should offer access to employee assistance programmes or mental health professionals to proactively address potential issues.
1. Ministry of Transport of China
2. China Economic | Outbound tourism market booming ahead of Spring Festival
3. Safety Science Journal (2023) | Trends in crowd accidents based on an analysis of press reports
About the International SOS Group of CompaniesThe International SOS Group of Companies is in the business of saving lives, protecting your global workforce from health and security threats. Wherever you are, we deliver customised health, security risk management and wellbeing solutions to fuel your growth and productivity. In the event of extreme weather, an epidemic or a security incident, we provide an immediate response providing peace of mind. Our innovative technology and medical and security expertise focus on prevention, offering real-time, actionable insights and on-the-ground quality delivery. We help protect your people, your organisation's reputation, as well as support your compliance reporting needs. By partnering with us, organisations can fulfil their Duty of Care responsibilities, while empowering business resilience, continuity and sustainability.
Founded in 1985, the International SOS Group, headquartered in London & Singapore, is trusted by more than 9,000 organisations, including the majority of the Fortune 500, as well as mid-size enterprises, governments, educational institutions and NGOs. 13,000 multicultural medical, security and logistics experts stand with you to provide support & assistance from over 1,200 locations in 90 countries, 24/7, 365 days.
To protect your workforce, we are at your fingertips: www.internationalsos.com