Impact Publications : MiceBTN_62
MICEBTN - FEBRUARY 2016 • Page 53 Is there anywhere that you can relax when travelling? Road warriors, world travellers hit by worsening terror, health warnings and gang violence in formerly safe regions FOR business travellers and their em- ployers, new global danger spots are prompting the development of staff monitoring and advice systems, with many companies using phones, social networks, text alerts and emails to stay in constant contact with their road warri- ors, writes Jack Handley. As a result, it also has become big business for security firms, with special- ists springing up and travel management companies (TMCs) introducing new safety initiatives. They are needed. Business destina- tions like Angola, Nigeria and Brazil that are heavily reliant on the revenue raised from raw materials have reported a significant upturn in criminality and violence. Brazil alone has seen a recent spate of grab and run robberies on Rio’s beaches coupled with a deteriorating security situation in many of the city’s slums. The government says security will be tight during the upcoming Olympics, but commentators say police are likely to face a greater criminal challenge than they did during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Violence also is much more of a problem in Europe, where migrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa all have been involved in seeming- ly ad-hoc sexual and physical assaults in formerly safe destinations including in Scandinavia. Then, possibly adding to future trou- bles, Denmark late January passed laws meaning it could confiscate valuables worth more than about A$2,000 from refugees to help pay for their support. Aid groups immediately responded, say- ing it reminded them of Nazi Germany. Cyber attacks also are common in our current political landscape and business travellers are particularly vulnerable, with major hotel groups including Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Mandarin Oriental and Trump admitting their pay- ment systems have been hacked, with client data including credit card informa- tion compromised. Elsewhere, airports, hotel lobbies, business conventions, pubs and restaurants are a favourite target for cyber criminals trying to steal data by hijacking free wifi connections. Visa application processes also now are tougher and likely to become more so. Late January Greece found its borders blocked to stop migrants using it to enter the EU and it was suggested the Schengen free travel area covering much of Europe could close down, despite an ever-growing demand from business people, tourists and migrants. Already, non-EU passport holders face difficult bureaucratic hurdles when ap- plying for EU visas. The Western travelling public is voting with its feet and wallets and shunning danger spots like never before. They are instead booking holidays at destinations – including long haul – that are deemed ‘safe’ places for travel, such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the USA and Canada, Italy and Greece. Unfortunately, there are fewer ‘safe’ destinations today than perhaps ever before. At the end of January, there were 32 travel advisory warnings on exfin.com (the Australian expatriates’ gateway web site), while the UK’s Foreign Office was advising against travel to all or part of more than 60 nations around the world, including Afghanistan, Burundi and Cen- tral African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Con. Many tourists now also shun Turkey (domestic bombings/terror attacks aimed at tourists), Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (a bombed flight followed by ongoing security concerns at the airport there), Tunisia (multiple terrorist attacks and murders), large parts of Africa (Boko Haram terrorists, fears about a recurrence of ebola), parts of Asia (avi- an flu), the Middle East (MERS), Russia (HIV, plus travel restrictions through sanctions), South America in general and in particular Brazil (the new Zika virus outbreak that the World Health Organ- ization says could spread throughout the West from the Americas), Scotland (swine flu), Paris and Brussels (terror at- tacks at the former, threats at the latter) ... and the list goes on. Safe destinations So where do holidaymakers feel safe? According to the Travelzoo web site, UK travel companies tip holidays to Spain to sell out this northern summer, while Greece may already be fully booked. Travelzoo says, the impact of terror- ism over the last six months has meant two-thirds (66 per cent) of travellers are actively avoiding countries that have ex- perienced terrorist attacks in the past 12 months. Even cruises are affected. First Crystal Cruises is avoiding Istanbul and the beach resort of Kusadasi in Turkey, citing “ongoing safety concerns”. Spain’s beaches popular with British holiday makers...