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Traveler Fears Shift

By Dan Richards | January 10, 2023

Traveler fears are returning to pre-pandemic norms. For the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic the biggest concern about travel abroad among the world’s most experienced travelers is having an injury or illness – but not a COVID-related illness.

Whether you call it revenge travel or make-up travel, the Global Rescue Fall 2022 Traveler Safety and Sentiment Survey revealed traveler apprehension about COVID dramatically dropped to 20% compared to 33% in August. COVID fears have been replaced with more traditional concerns. A third of travelers (33%) said their biggest fear is suffering a non-COVID illness or injury followed by trip cancellation (13%), civil unrest (11%), being robbed (5%), natural disasters (3%) and nuclear attack (less than 1%).

Travel confidence is exploding in a positive direction. Borders are open and TSA data reflects traveler volumes pushing past pre-pandemic levels for the first time in more than two years. The survey revealed that inflation, the higher cost of travel and airline staff shortages aren’t the travel deterrents some expected.

Travelers are shrugging off inflation and working around anticipated flight disruptions.

The majority of travelers (70%) have not canceled or postponed an international or domestic trip. Nearly half (47%) of travelers are not making any spending changes while on travel but among those who are 11% are flying on less expensive plane tickets, 10% are lodging at less costly places, 8% are eating out less or at less expensive restaurants and another 8% are traveling for fewer days, only 4% are reducing or not buying souvenirs or gifts during their trip.

More than half of travelers (55%) planned to fly nonstop whenever possible to minimize potential flight disruptions due to airline staff shortages during the fall and winter. The majority of travelers planned to journey domestically and internationally through the holiday season and into 2023.

In the face of airline disruptions and the rising cost of travel, travelers are sticking with plans to travel. People are anticipating heavy crowds at airports and they are booking nonstop flights whenever possible. They are also enrolling in Trusted Traveler programs like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry to move through security faster. Enrollment levels have spiked 44% since before the pandemic, according to TSA data.

The survey revealed steady, but slow, growth in business travel – but not enough to get back to pre-pandemic business travel levels. The majority of business travelers (71%) have already resumed business travel while another 14% expect to go back to business travel by the summer of 2023.

Bleisure travel — a portmanteau of business and leisure that refers to a growing trend of business travelers tacking leisure days onto a work-related trip — is on the rise and may boost the return to business travel. The survey revealed that the majority of business travelers (73%) plan to use bleisure travel and take a few extra days for personal enjoyment following a business trip.

Whether you’re an employer looking to use bleisure travel to incentivize a return to business travel or an employee looking to take advantage of it in the future, it’s important employers make certain their duty of care legal requirements are comprehensively detailed.

As travel returns to pre-pandemic levels the traveler mindset has been reset. Travelers learned traditional travel insurance is not enough, rather emergency rescue and evacuation services are essential – whether it’s due to COVID, a natural disaster, civil unrest or simply needing emergency help when you’re traveling. Traveler preferences have moved travel protection for emergency medical services and evacuation from optional to required.

Travel uncertainty generally increases traveler demand for emergency medical and security services. Between the war and the pandemic, travelers want emergency medical, security and evacuation services when confronted with a crisis while traveling more than ever.

Dan Richards

Dan Richards is CEO of the Global Rescue Companies, the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. He currently serves on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce and is a Global Member of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

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