The global picture continues to shift geopolitically, culturally and economically, making it more important than ever for business travelers to understand their insurance needs, corporate security programs and best practices for personal safety. This is especially relevant today in light of the coronavirus outbreak that has catapulted the travel industry into disarray.
According to a report in Bloomberg News, “It’s the biggest setback for the travel industry since a downturn that accompanied the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the SARS outbreak and the war in Iraq two years later.” As tourists and business travelers alike fear being both quarantined and becoming infected, staying at home seems like a safer option.
It is still unclear how refunds on flights, hotels and insurance claims are being handled in this fluid situation, but for now, there are several things to keep in mind: Reports indicate that many airlines are waiving all change fees, while others are allowing travelers to change or cancel flights at no charge but only on itineraries involving certain destinations. Hotels, cruise ships and other tour operators must be contacted individually as there is no one across the-board policy.
In case of travel insurance, some providers are honoring cancellation coverage. However, it’s important to note that usually, travel insurance protects against unexpected events, so if you buy a policy for a destination where an outbreak has been reported, your trip most likely is not going to be covered. Additionally, your typical national standard medical insurance policy is likely to exclude infectious disease outbreaks, in an effort to keep costs low.
Our best advice: Check with your provider, and then double check again.
Pandemics aside, according to a recently released survey from SAP Concur, nearly one third (31 percent) of business travelers prioritize their own safety as the most important factor on a business trip. For female travelers, the risks are particularly acute; more than three in four female business travelers report having suffered harassment while traveling.
Everyone in the travel value chain – travel providers, organizations and individual travelers – has a part to play in travel safety. However, realizing that the burden of safety is largely the traveler’s own, it’s vital for a traveler to constantly stay vigilant and “travel-aware” (i.e., be monitoring the news, managing their fatigue, figuring out the safest place to eat after hours, and conducting business, all at the same time).
TOOLS FOR THE TRAVELER
Fortunately, there are several ways travelers can streamline their traveler safety protocols. Enter technology, which is making life easier for the traveler both in small to medium enterprises, as well as major corporations with massive security departments.
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