Gone are the days of seizing your passport and carry-on baggage, monitoring airport security and meeting your colleagues in the boarding area, at least for now. But that’s not the only thing Covid-19 has changed for travel.
Travelers traveling over the next few months will be among the first visitors to many countries after a year of Covid shutdown. There may be some confusion for these early pioneers regarding both travel rules and locally enforced legislation, but a less obvious – and just as important – consequence of Covid are changes in the socio-economic profile of a destination.
Has the world changed?
Business travelers visiting new destinations or returning to old haunts could face increased risks, especially in the “Global South”. One concern is a high unemployment rate among the local populations and therefore an increase in criminal acts resulting from desperation.
With fewer tourists, the likelihood of business travelers becoming the target of opportunistic crime has increased. In jurisdictions where the effectiveness of law enforcement is less disciplined, officials may also be exposed to corruption.
It is not enough for travelers to understand the local law; they should also be aware of the ‘spirit’ applied to the rules by local law enforcement and government security forces in conflict-prone destinations, whether for cultural motives or specific targeting of minorities .
Countries that have been hit hard by Covid may be less inclined to forgive a traveler if they are slow to adapt to local rules, or even feel the presence of a foreign traveler during a security lockdown. Worse yet, international NGOs and media organizations have documented actions by government security forces that could be viewed as human rights violations in some destinations, with reported cases of killings and physical assaults under the guise of police checks. of Covid.
Crime is immune to Covid
Travel restrictions and border closures have not limited organized criminal activity; you could say that the crime was immune to Covid. Closed borders and travel restrictions have allowed criminals to find new opportunities as security forces focus on lockdowns.
The emergence in Nicaragua of the MS-13 gang distributing aid and medical support in areas with no government security is an example of criminals using the pandemic to expand their control. In Mexico, drug cartels have expanded their presence to control some popular resort destinations by exploiting the high number of unemployed tourism workers.
Cybercrime has also increased dramatically over the past year, capitalizing on the confusion from Covid. Criminals produced official-looking websites, messages and emails designed to obtain personal data. Travelers will need to protect their information and confirm the legitimacy of a request.
For example, many jurisdictions require travelers to accept a pandemic tracking app using a QR code. They should only receive it upon arrival at a border entry point or when checking in at a trusted location such as a hotel. Scanning a fake QR code can compromise a device and personal data.
Adaptability and flexibility
Travel will always be an essential part of the delivery of NGO programs, academic life, and general business activities for many organizations. They all have a duty of care to inform their business travelers of destination changes before their trip, to be able to locate them at any time, to monitor and act on global events as they arise. produce, and communicate regularly to inform them of any risk.
More than ever, travelers need to be resilient. Organizations should ensure that appropriate screening protocols are in place before, during and after travel to support the physical and mental well-being of the traveler.
As immunization programs gain momentum, restrictions ease, and more travel bubbles are established, we expect a steady increase in travel. While countries will still be reeling from the economic impacts of Covid, security and border forces will adapt to new regulatory landscapes, and local communities will face the consequences of losses and uncertainty.
If organizations are considering resuming business travel, they should be aware that it is normally not the most risky trip, but the destination itself.