Stats: Majority of Business Travelers Not Happy to Be Traveling Again

A new survey revealed the top safety concerns of U.S. and Canadian business travelers in a post-pandemic world, including how they expect their employers to mitigate these concerns and ensure safe travel. The Opinium survey was commissioned by World Travel Protection (WTP) and was conducted from January 2 to February 2, 2023, among 1,000 business travelers in the U.S. and Canada.

Overall, just one third of business travelers in North America say they are happy to be traveling for work again (Canada 36 percent; U.S. 33 percent). Even fewer think that travel is “essential” for their jobs today (U.S. 31 percent; Canada 23 percent).

Delays and disruptions are the biggest cause of concern (U.S. 82 percent; Canada 78 percent), as well as catching COVID-19 and having to isolate (U.S. 70 percent; Canada 70 percent) and losing a phone or laptop (U.S. 69 percent; Canada 69 percent). Other concerns include being hacked using an unsecured Wi-Fi network (U.S. 76 percent; Canada 63 percent), being the victim of a crime (U.S. 72 percent; Canada 66 percent), and experiencing geopolitical threats (U.S. 69 percent; Canada 63 percent).

Almost one-third of U.S. business travelers (30 percent) and a quarter of Canadians (25 percent) say they are more concerned about their health and well-being while traveling now, compared to before the pandemic. When traveling for work, many report feeling stressed (U.S. 41 percent; Canada 30 percent), exhausted (U.S. 38 percent; Canada 30 percent), homesick (U.S. 32 percent; Canada 28 percent) and anxious (U.S. 31 percent; Canada 27 percent).

Homesickness and deteriorating mental health are becoming more pronounced among travelers since the pandemic, says Dr. Joel Lockwood, chief medical officer, Canada, WTP. “The stress of travel and being away from traditional support networks is challenging for many people, and this is compounded by a burnout created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The severity of episodes and shortness of onset are certainly key areas to watch.”

Almost seven in 10 business travelers agree that traveling for work as a woman is less safe than traveling as a man (U.S. 67 percent; Canada 67 percent). About a quarter of those surveyed prefer not to travel to countries where women’s rights aren’t protected (U.S. 25 percent; Canada 27 percent), but many more women than men have this sentiment (U.S. 31 percent women vs. 20 percent men; Canada 44 percent women vs. 12 percent men).

A majority of business travelers say they would like their employer to check in more often when they are traveling (U.S. 61 percent; Canada 50 percent). Notably, three fourths say they would decline a business trip if they didn’t feel confident that their employer was prioritizing their safety (U.S. 78 percent; Canada 74 percent).

A small majority of business travelers feel their organization would be able to help if they had an emergency (U.S. 60 percent; Canada 54 percent) or required medical help (U.S. 57 percent; Canada 50 percent) while traveling abroad. Even fewer business travelers think their companies would help if they were to lose their passport and/or money (U.S. 49 percent; Canada 40 percent), if there were a major weather event or natural disaster (U.S. 44 percent; Canada 40 percent), or if there was a domestic incident (U.S. 41 percent; Canada 31 percent).

Many take some safety precautions into their own hands. Business travelers report always making sure family or work knows where they are at all times (U.S. 46 percent; Canada 42 percent); not traveling or going out on their own at night (U.S. 24 percent; Canada 27 percent); and making sure to wear a wedding ring, even if it is fake, to avoid unwanted attention (U.S. 23 percent; Canada 15 percent). Some also admit to putting an obstacle against a hotel room door to stop intruders (U.S. 22 percent; Canada 12 percent).

While a majority of business travelers say their employers expresses concern about their well-being while traveling (U.S. 78 percent; Canada 70 percent), less than three in 10 say they are provided with practical advice in advance of traveling, such as a number to call if something goes wrong (U.S. 29 percent; Canada 24 percent), a full briefing on the destination (U.S. 28 percent; Canada 22 percent), or information on what to do if involved in an accident (U.S. 28 percent; Canada 21 percent).

“What some employers may not understand is that they have a Duty of Care, or legal obligation, to prevent their employees from reasonably foreseeable risks,” says Grace Patenall, global chief legal officer, WTP. “This includes having a travel risk management (TRM) policy in place, with sound, strategic steps that reflect the realities of the changing landscape and safeguard the wellbeing of their employees who travel. Organizations that either don’t have a TRM strategy or are not communicating this to their traveling employees in advance of departure are not only putting their travelers at risk, but also the reputation of the organization.”

Worryingly, should they encounter an emergency while traveling, North American business travelers are misinformed about what to expect from their embassies and governments. While nearly three-fourths believe their embassy will help them get medical treatment if needed (U.S. 73 percent; Canada 70 percent) and a majority think their government would pay to get them home (U.S. 62 percent; Canada 55 percent), this is not always the case.

Frank Harrison, regional security director, North America, WTP says, “We hear this a lot both from travelers and organizations, who seem to think that all they need is a quick visit to their home country’s Embassy or High Commission and all will be fine. Unfortunately, while embassies and governments may provide certain services, such as a list of physicians and hospitals, they typically won’t make decisions about a traveler’s medical care or pay to evacuate them home.”

While seven in 10 business travelers say their organization provides them with a travel assistant app (U.S. 79 percent; Canada 69 percent), very few report that they are required to use them (U.S. 11 percent; Canada 7 percent). Further, even when “encouraged” by their organization to download a travel assistance app, only a small percentage of travelers say they have done so (U.S. 21 percent; Canada 21 percent).

Harrison adds: “Organizations and their travelers should know that technology now exists to help them take a much more proactive approach to protecting travelers and helping them to understand exactly what to expect at their destination and if there are any risks.Through a secure travel app downloaded to a traveler’s phone, organizations can be in touch with travelers immediately, wherever they are and respond in real time to locate, communicate, assist, and potentially extract people across borders, time zones, and governments.”

The main reason business travelers don’t use the travel assistance app provided by their company is their own confidence in knowledge about the destination (U.S. 32 percent; Canada 25 percent), followed by not thinking they need one given they’re only traveling to areas they consider “safe” (U.S. 27 percent; Canada 24 percent) and always traveling as part of a group (U.S. 22 percent; Canada 14 percent). Other reasons travelers are not using assistance apps include concerns around data privacy and worrying it’s a cyber-security risk (U.S. 21 percent; Canada 16 percent), not wanting to share data with an outside company (U.S. 20 percent; Canada 19 percent), and not wanting their company to know their whereabouts while traveling on business (U.S. 19 percent; Canada 14 percent) or while taking personal time or days (U.S. 18 percent; Canada 14 percent).

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