While fears about COVID-19 justifiably loomed large in travelers’ minds in recent years, the good news is that these concerns have since plummeted.
They’ve been replaced, however, by worries about civil unrest around the world, according to the Global Rescue Winter 2023 Traveler Safety and Sentiment Survey.
Since August 2022, apprehension about COVID has dropped at a rate of 61 percent, down to its current rate of 13 percent compared to 33 percent in late summer last year, according to the results of Global Rescue’s quarterly surveys. Concerns about civil unrest and terrorism, meanwhile, nearly doubled over the past six months, jumping to 14 percent in the latest Global Rescue survey from 8 percent in late summer 2022.
“Concern is somewhat warranted—as political unrest, protests, and riots are happening at an increased level,” said Andrew Jernigan, CEO of Alabama-based Insured Nomads, which provides insurance for travelers, remote workers, ex-pats, and companies. “We’re gaining members—both group and corporate members, and family and individual members—due to the increased level of expressed concern.”
Beyond civil unrest, it seems the greatest anxiety among the world’s globetrotters is injury or illness (unrelated to COVID-19) while traveling. More than a third of travelers (37 percent) said suffering a non-COVID illness or injury is their biggest fear. Additional concerns include trip cancellation (12 percent), being robbed (4 percent), natural disasters (3 percent) and nuclear attacks (less than 1 percent). And that’s still not all travelers worry about.
When it comes to traveling internationally, travelers are anxious about hotel and lodging safety (25 percent), and car service and taxi safety (10 percent). Still, other travelers worry about whether a destination is safe for families (15 percent) and whether it’s poses any risks for women specifically (11 percent).
Meanwhile, 10 percent of travelers want to know if they’ll need physical protection in a particular destination. And the perennial concern about identity theft and cyber security also continues to keep travelers awake at night with 9 percent expressing concerns about this issue.
So what are travelers to do with all of these worries? Purchasing travel insurance is of course helpful, say experts. But that’s not the only way to address such concerns.
“Using a professional travel advisor is a key strategy to allay many of these fears. We can advise on official sources for information on risks,” says James Ferrara, president and co-founder of InteleTravel. “We have the knowledge to help dissect the headlines into useful advice about where to go and how to act. And we can help travelers to better understand the risks and make informed decisions.”
Ferrara added that the number of travelers experiencing the worries identified by the Global Rescue study is still comparatively low. And at least when it comes to InteleTravel clients specifically, civil unrest has not yet become a source of significant concern.
“To date, we have not seen a rise in concerns of civil unrest from travelers, and we have clients all over the world traveling to many off-the-beaten-path destinations, in addition to the most popular destinations,” said Ferrara’s colleague, Tara Minson, executive vice president of InteleTravel.
Here are some of the top tips from travel industry insiders and experts for dealing with the travel-related worries identified by the Global Rescue report.
1. Lean on the services of a valued travel advisor
“It’s our job to stay on top of travel trends, so that we can advise our clients on where they should vacation and the safest way to do so,” says Annie Jones, owner and luxury travel advisor for Pennsylvania-based Telos Travel. “We have relationships with trusted in-destination and accommodation partners who we can rely on to give us honest, boots-on-the-ground, feedback in locations where travelers may be hesitant to vacation.”
2. Seek context and additional information surrounding media reports about civil unrest
“I’m not at all surprised by the fears travelers are expressing. With so much media readily available at your fingertips, it’s easy to get caught up in all the chatter and start to panic or outright eliminate a destination because of what you are reading online or seeing in the news,” says Jones. “I’ve absolutely had clients approach me about civil unrest or fears of illness while they are away and none of those fears or questions are unreasonable.”
Jones says she always tries to have conversations with her clients about their fears, in order to get to the root of their worries and offer proper guidance. If you’re experiencing similar concerns, reach out to a trusted travel professional to sort through your questions and obtain more information.
Sometimes, the best answer may be choosing a different destination. But that doesn’t always have to be the case, says Jones.
3. Advance preparation is key
“Know the neighborhoods or areas of town that have had civil unrest or high rates of crime and avoid them,” says Margie Jordan, vice president of membership for CCRA International‘s TRUE Global Network.
Understanding the COVID protocol at the destination you’re traveling to, continues to remain important, added Jordan. As is having a contingency plan, should you contract COVID. Your planning should include medical care, quarantine options, flight rebooking options, and inexpensive places to stay.
“The most important thing to know is how will you get home in either situation,” said Jordan.
4. Remember there will always be evolving current events around the world
“We are always going to have something—whether terrorism, Covid, political unrest, Zika virus, drugs or gangs,” said Tammy Levent, founder of Elite Travel. “Travel agents today play a crucial role in the psychological aspect of what our client goes through.”
Travelers, added Levent, can fall into the trap of the news cycle so remember that you have the power to take such information in stride, do your research and work with a professional to plan a safe, enjoyable trip.