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Press announcement

The New Travel Reality: Travel Is back, but with Increased Risks

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The latest data from International SOS reveals that global business trip volumes have increased fourfold since May 20211. However, the pandemic has added a new layer of complexity to travel. Constantly evolving travel regulations and increased security and health risks mean that trips are now nine-times more like to result in an evacuation1. These findings were released by International SOS, the world's leading health and security services company with 12,000 clients worldwide.

The number of international business trips taken is growing globally by 10% each month since May 20211, whilst growth for domestic trips is slightly higher at 13% per month1. This growth is also witnessed by various travel experts from Swiss organisations2 such as Switzerland Global Enterprise, Swiss International Air Lines, the Association of Swiss Travel Management, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). According to IATA3, the number of passengers in 2022 is expected to be at 75% of pre-pandemic volumes. Demand specifically for domestic trips in 2022 will grow to 93% of pre-pandemic volumes. Simultaneously, travellers’ security & health risk exposure has increased.

Traveller’s security & health risk exposure has increased

Today, travellers are nine-times more likely to require a Medical Evacuation than in 20191. This is due to the direct impacts of COVID-19 infection itself, coupled with a surge in needs to access healthcare, and compounded by requirements for testing, isolation and quarantine. Access to quality healthcare has become a challenge worldwide which triggers a growing need for healthcare services in-country, and if not possible; medical evacuations.

The processing time for handling medical evacuations for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 cases has drastically increased due to the added complexity in arranging essential logistical support and securing all the permissions required to evacuate internationally1.

Globally, the volume of time-sensitive, high impact, security alerts, which alert travellers to risks such as terrorist incidents, civil unrest or climatic events, released by International SOS, rose by 80% from 2019 to date. Currently, an average of 400 high severity alerts per month1 are being issued globally. COVID-19 has heightened the threats posed by civil unrest and crime especially, as the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic across countries have squeezed public and private finances and, in some cases, heightened pre-existing ideological divisions. This, combined with the longer-standing trend of increasingly severe natural disasters and climate events, has led to a significant increase in trip disruptions for travellers as well as direct security risks. The longer-term indirect security impact of COVID-19 will also continue to be significant beyond 2022.

Travel Restrictions – a big challenge for travellers and employers

The complex and highly volatile cross-border COVID-19 restrictions have generated a strong additional workload for travellers, a surge in demand to their employers to help them, and particularly to HR & security teams for trusted sources of health & security information and advice, as well help with local law enforcement.

“There are currently many variables in business travel. Whether it's the person travelling, the different entry requirements of the countries, the requirements of the respective airline, the quality of local medical assistance… all these questions we have to deal with weeks before the actual business trip,”

says Domenica Huber, Head of Global Reward at Barry Callebaut Group – a client of International SOS. To manage this challenge more efficiently, Barry Callebaut Group has introduced a strict process for travel approvals.

Evolving Duty of Care

While travel is back, restrictions and complexity are here to stay. Therefore, the employer’s role and its Duty of Care regarding travel is being transformed. To protect the company's workforce as efficiently as possible, employers need robust and integrated health & security travel policies, the ability to access integrated world-class medical & security intelligence, advice and assistance, digital tools for adherence to policies, optimal preparation of trips and process simplifications.

Cédric Fraissinet, General Manager Switzerland and Italy at International SOS, says,

"Just as 9/11 completely changed the security rules of the air transport industry, COVID-19 has done the same to travel risk management practices. A siloed approach to health and security risks is no longer adequate; assessing employee fitness to travel, and on-trip support, is now needed more than ever before. I would strongly advise organisations to familiarize themselves with the new ISO 31030:2021 – Travel Risk Management. Guidance for organizations4. The new international standard outlines travel risk management best practice that can be utilised to achieve an efficient and effective programme. And ultimately protects employees and employers alike.”

Supporting Material: International SOS created – in collaboration with IATA, Swiss International Air Lines, Switzerland Global Enterprise, and the Association of Swiss Travel Management an infographic showing the path to the new Travel Reality which can be found here.

The aforementioned companies, respectively association co-organised a virtual roundtable2 in October to discuss the return to travel situation and the new travel reality. The slide deck and the recording of this virtual roundtable are available under this link.


For Further information, please contact:

Dominik Erne
Marketing & Communications Director, International SOS
Tel: +41 (0)22 719 11 40
E-mail: dominik.erne@internationalsos.com

  1. Analysis based on International SOS Assistance Case Data (1 May 2020 - 31 August 2021) and International SOS alerts (1 Jan 2019 – 31 July 2021)
  2. Based on a virtual roundtable on "Return to Travel", organised by International SOS on 6 October 2021 with experts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Switzerland Global Enterprise, Barry Callebaut Group, SWISS, the Association of Swiss Travel Management and International SOS: Return to Travel Roundtable | Resources (internationalsos.com)
  3. Total passenger numbers are expected to reach 2.3 billion in 2021. This will grow to 3.4 billion in 2022 which is similar to 2014 levels and significantly below the 4.5 billion travellers of 2019. https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/2021-releases/2021-10-04-01/
  4.  ISO 31030:2021 Travel risk management — Guidance for organizations: https://www.iso.org/standard/54204.html
Notes to Editors
About the International SOS Group of Companies
The 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 12,000 organisations, including the majority of the Fortune 500, as well as mid-size enterprises, governments, educational institutions and NGOs. 12,000 multicultural medical, security and logistics experts stand with you to provide support & assistance from over 1,000 locations in 90 countries, 24/7, 365 days.

To protect your workforce, we are at your fingertips: www.internationalsos.com