by Michael J. Shapiro | March 16, 2017
Road warriors rank terrorism as the number-one travel risk, according to a new study from the GBTA Foundation, the research and education branch of the Global Business Travel Association. In "Risk on the Road: Safety and Security Concerns Lead to Traveler Behavior Change," nearly half (45 percent) of respondents ranked terrorism as their greatest concern while traveling for business. Other factors lagged far behind as primary concerns: Just 15 percent named street crime highest, followed by illness/disease outbreaks/sanitation (13 percent), property crime/theft (12 percent), kidnapping (8 percent) and natural disasters (6 percent).
 
The GBTA Foundation surveyed 798 U.S. business travelers for the report, and supplemented findings with four interviews of travel and security professionals. The survey was conducted online in September 2016, so responses were not influenced by any events that have occurred since then. 
 
"We often talk about the resiliency of the business-travel industry in the face of terror threats, economic uncertainty, political unrest and other factors," said GBTA executive director and COO Michael W. McCormick. "Keeping travelers safe on the road is a prime responsibility for travel professionals. Understanding road warriors' fears and anxieties about business travel, as well as communicating the available risk protocols and assistance services, can go a long way in building an effective risk-management program."
 
As part of the survey, respondents were asked to rate the safety of 16 destinations, which included both domestic and international locations, as well as developed and developing nations. Seven out of 10 of the emerging markets on the list were rated "unsafe" or "not safe at all" by at least one-quarter of the responding travelers. In contrast, more than 80 percent of respondents ranked the developed cities in North America and Western Europe as at least "somewhat safe." More than half of respondents (52 percent) felt safer when traveling domestically as opposed to internationally.
 
Among the list of destinations, those viewed as safest were Washington, D.C. (73 percent called it "safe" or "very safe"); Los Angeles (72 percent); London (70 percent); New York City (66 percent); Munich, Germany (56 percent); Shanghai, China (53 percent), and Paris (52 percent). 
 
The destinations viewed as the most unsafe were Turkey (53 percent called it "unsafe" or "not safe at all"); Mexico (42 percent); Lagos, Nigeria (37 percent); Brazil (35 percent); Jakarta, Indonesia (35 percent); Mumbai, India (32 percent); and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (28 percent). 
 
The other two destinations, Bangkok, Thailand, and Capetown, South Africa, were perceived as more safe than unsafe, but not as significantly as the others on the list.
 
Travelers also were asked to rate the impact of factors on the business-travel industry more broadly, in terms of the ways they affect how and whether employees will go out on the road. Terrorism also ranked highest on that list, followed by local/regional disease outbreaks, corporate budget cuts and the global economy, in terms of the amount of impact.
 
It seems that business travelers are wary of today's risks: Only 37 percent said they feel safe when they travel, regardless of their destination. And more than half (57 percent) noted that any destination could be at high risk in today's environment. Nearly half (48 percent) said they would avoid traveling to certain high-risk destinations, even if it hurts their careers, while only 31 percent said they would travel to those destinations. 
 
GBTA members can download the full report from hub.gbta.org, while nonmembers can purchase the paper for $499 by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org.