Heightened security threats, infectious diseases, a tightening economy and geopolitical instability are expected to be among the top disruptors of travel in 2020, according to a new report by Riskline, a risk-assessment software company.
The following list of 2020 travel risks has been compiled by Riskline's worldwide team of travel analysts, who monitor and review issues impacting the industry on a daily basis. "A careful examination of ongoing and emerging trends provides crucial information for businesses planning the year ahead," said Adam Schrader, director of operations for Riskline, in a news release. "All of the predicted risks... are equally important, but two of them in particular will underpin the most dangerous security threats in 2020: the ongoing effects of climate change and the potential final year of the Trump administration."
1. Climate Change
Climate change has led to instances such as torrential flooding, severe storms and increased temperatures that lend to growing concerns of droughts and dangerous wildfires across destinations that previously indicated no climate-related risks, Riskline asserts. With the increased frequency of these natural disasters -- for example, Hurricane Dorian, which caused massive destruction across the Bahamas in September 2019; or the currently blazing wildfires in Australia -- fatalities, business and travel disruptions, and power and communication outages are becoming more common.
"It will be the mostly unseen, long-term effects that are the greater danger," remarked Schrader. "Droughts or floods destroy land and livelihoods and become the catalysts for new violent conflicts and forced migration."
Efforts to reverse the damage caused by climate change are insufficient, according to the Riskline report, and the United States, the second-largest carbon emitter, currently plans to withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement in 2020.
2. Brexit and the U.S.-China Trade War
The results of the 2015 referendum in the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union (the move called Brexit) and the 2016 U.S. presidential election continue to upend long-standing domestic political norms in both countries. The long-term outcome of both events is unclear at present, but, according to Riskline, a return to the status quo is unlikely in either country -- the pro-Brexit and pro-Trump coalitions that won in 2015 and 2016 have mobilized social forces that will remain on the scene for years to come.
The meetings industry, however, still appears to be well positioned to weather the storm, according to American Express Meetings & Events, which recently published its 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, based on a survey of more than 550 meeting professionals from around the world, as well as interviews with industry experts. In the report, American Express continues to predict "steady growth" across all meeting types for the fifth consecutive year in spite of economic and political instability.
Riskline warns, though, that the U.K.'s leaving the EU will likely lead to major economic changes in the trading block, and that EU members will face further economic disruptions from the U.S.-China trade war.
3. Islamic Terrorism
Islamic terrorism will remain a risk for travelers in 2020, according to predictions from Riskline, as former members of the weakened Islamic State will potentially be looking to carry out reprisal attacks following the death of former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S.-led raid in Syria in October 2019.
4. Far-Right Terrorism
Attacks similar to the deadly March 2019 shootings at a mosque and an Islamic centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, remain possible, particularly in the U.S., according to Riskline's report, as right-wing groups expand their presence in mainstream American politics.
5. Outbreak of Infectious Diseases
Established and newly emerging pathogens are expected to increase throughout 2020 due to multiple factors, including migration and highly mobile populations, increasing urbanization, diminishing vaccination coverage, unstable health-care infrastructure and security instability. Coupled with the harmful effects of climate change, outbreaks of diseases like Ebola, cholera, yellow fever and viruses like measles are more frequent.
Looking forward, Riskline reports that scientists predict an 80 percent chance of an El Niño weather pattern occurring in 2020, bringing disastrous heavy rainfall and long droughts to countries on the Pacific Ocean and paving the way for mosquito-borne diseases.
In comparison, medical and travel security services company International SOS places infectious disease outbreak as the sixth-largest travel risk for 2020 according to the company's Travel Risk Map and 2020 Business Resilience Trend Watch report.
6. Internet Issues and the Cost of Doing Business
In 2018 and 2019, Internet blackouts aimed at stopping the spread of antigovernment protests cost billions of dollars in lost economic activity, according to Riskline's report. Experts predict this tactic will continue throughout the next year as governments steer away from addressing discontent expressed online. Similarly, the International SOS risk map says that cybercrime continues to pose an increasing risk for travelers and travel safety.
7. Antisystemic Protests
The last year brought with it a considerable rise in antisystemic protests, most notably across Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. As popular discontent with governments grows in many countries due to economic and social issues, analysts say the general population should expect these movements to grow in volume and frequency in 2020.
8. Geopolitical Unrest and Russia's Role
Since 2015, Russia has stepped up its military and economic engagements in Syria and Turkey, along with expanding ties in Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Russia will continue to play a spoiler role in the region in 2020, as predicted by the Riskline report, and the impact could come at the expense of U.S. travelers.
9. International Sporting Events
Major sporting events like the Summer Olympics in Japan, the UEFA European Football Championship, and the Copa América in Argentina and Colombia will likely pose travel risks throughout the year, possibly in the form of targeted terrorism at events with large crowds and global media interest.
Riskline suggests disruptions to air travel also are possible, especially if any international sporting events coincide with prolonged labour strikes in the air sector.
10. Water Shortages
In tandem with climate change, as heat waves increase in intensity and duration, Riskline predicts that protests over water scarcity could increase throughout 2020, noting violent clashes over increasingly scarce water and land resources can be expected in countries like Mali and Nigeria. Public discontent is likely to extend to pockets of extreme water scarcity in under-developed regions of Italy and Spain, as well as in New Mexico and California.