During the depths of the pandemic, many people optimistically focused on a time in the future when things would go back to the way they were before, with everyone free to enjoy unrestricted travel again.
Thankfully, this vision has largely been realised in recent years as the disruption of Covid-19 has dissolved into the background and controls on movement have been lifted. Families are increasingly venturing beyond their own national borders on holiday and businesses, having relied on Zoom and Teams, are embracing more opportunities for face-to-face interaction through overseas travel.
Scratch beneath the surface of this picture, however, and things are not necessarily as straightforward as they seem. It appears that our attitudes towards travel today represent less of a return to normal and more of an entry into a post-Covid, ‘new normal’, where, for some, the prospect of venturing abroad is a cause for unease and even anxiety.
Changing attitudes to travel
There are many factors driving this change. As well as the lingering direct health risk of contracting Covid-19 while abroad, the subsequent need to isolate also presents a continued point of friction. In addition, many people’s appetite for travel will have been curtailed by the uncomfortable images of disruption experienced by thousands last summer. Indeed, more than a third of UK flights were delayed in 2022 and the average delay per flight hit a five-year high.
In its Risk Outlook 2023 study, International SOS explored how these issues are leading to increasing nervousness among business travellers. It concluded that the main concerns negatively impacting on travel attitudes in the coming year were disruption to travel schedules, threats from geopolitical unrest, travel bans affecting specific countries, Covid-19, and security-based risks.
Interestingly, separate research from World Travel Protection reveals that concerns around delays and Covid-19 are of more concern to younger business travellers. Those aged under 34 were also found to express more apprehension than older colleagues when it comes to the risks from geopolitical threats and natural disasters.
Further illuminating these findings is the fact that the majority (60%) of business travellers believe their employer could do more to keep them safe while travelling, and around two thirds (67%) would change employers if they thought their safety while travelling wasn’t being prioritised.
Mitigating health risks
From all these figures, there are two key messages to take away. The first is the fact that employees, and particularly younger employees, are increasingly harbouring worries about business travel based on a wide range of concerns. The second is that there appears to be a gap between employers and employees when it comes to business travel, with companies facing a need to provide their workforce with appropriate levels of support to help mitigate concerns.
Of fundamental importance is caring for an employee’s health. This encompasses everything from pre-vetting destinations for healthcare risks to providing appropriate information on required vaccinations and medicines. Businesses must also ensure their travel insurance cover provides the proper level of support for medical treatment if the need arises.
Across the world, there are huge variations in the quality and cost of healthcare. There is a common misconception that because UK citizens benefit from the ‘free at the point of use’ model offered by the NHS, this will also afford them access to free healthcare abroad. However, this is typically not the case.
Putting cover in place
A degree of protection is provided by the free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaces the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and gives access to state-provided healthcare within the European Union or Switzerland where you cannot reasonably wait to return to the UK for treatment. However, not all state healthcare is free within this region and a GHIC never covers potentially expensive repatriation costs. As such, the government stresses that ownership of a GHIC should be complemented by valid travel insurance.
Another common misconception is that cover is unavailable for individuals who have a pre-existing medical condition, which can be a concern for older employees in particular. However, while these circumstances might represent a higher level of complexity, they can typically be managed by taking into account the specifics of the condition and considering the precise level of cover required.
Situations such as this underline the challenge faced by employers today when it comes to overseas travel in a post-Covid world. With access to the right specialist help, however, companies can be assured they have the right cover in place to protect their business and their people.
The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.