Threat forecast: 2014

Threat forecast: 2014

The coming year will see business and leisure travel increase. Frances Nobes looks at 2014’s predicted travel hotspots and the risk associated with each

The coming year will see business and leisure travel increase. Frances Nobes looks at 2014’s predicted travel hotspots and the risk associated with each

January’s post-Christmas blues present an ideal time to think about an upcoming holiday – somewhere exotic and warm with a blend of relaxation, adventure, culture and cuisine. It’s also a time for businesses to surface from their Christmas hibernation and scour the globe for new opportunities.
Demand for business travel is expected to increase yet again in 2014 as the global economy shows signs of improvement. A survey by the Global Business Travel Association predicts a 7.2 per cent rise in business travel spending in the coming 12 months, to approximately $288.8 billion. While business travel will increase, the survey also showed that 53 per cent of business travellers would pay to bring a friend or family member on their trip, while 46 per cent said that will extend a business trip in order to include some leisure and tourist activities.
The tourism industry will also continue to flourish in 2014, with a global value of approximately $6.8 trillion, and an expected increase of four per cent year-on-year. The opening of new flight routes, new hotels and the eternal search for the as yet undiscovered gem (be that business opportunities or leisure bliss) has contributed significantly to this growth. However, increased travel can also lead to an increased exposure to a range of threats which face business and leisure travellers alike. Being aware of these risks is the first step towards mitigation.
Crime is the greatest threat to travellers. Whether visiting your own capital or journeying to far-flung destinations, tourists and business professionals are more likely to be a victim of crime than face any other threat. Petty theft is particularly common, and most often takes place in crowded areas such as local markets, tourist hotspots, transportation hubs and other busy or popular areas. However, different locations also present different threats, all of which have the potential to affect individuals abroad.

Americas
Brazil will be one of the most talked about holiday destinations in 2014. The hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 12 cities across the country between 12 June and 13 July will draw hundreds of thousands of fans to the country. These will be in addition to the six million tourists who are lured to Brazil each year by the beautiful scenery, beaches, Carnival and iconic tourist attractions such as the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Visitors may also travel to nearby countries as part of a larger travel itinerary, with Peru and Uruguay tipped to be popular destinations. Peru’s stunning ancient sites – most famously Machu Picchu – and its reputation as ‘the gastronomic capital of South America’ make it a prime spot for adventurous tourists.
Uruguay has also been nominated as a destination to watch in 2014, with the capital Montevideo considered as Argentinean’s favourite summer capital. The combination of relaxing beaches, and restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Colonia del Sacramiento will undoubtedly attract tourists in 2014. Uruguay’s low-risk rating will add to its appeal, although the recent legalisation of cannabis (growing, buying and selling with some restrictions) may provoke some protests, although these are likely be infrequent and of low-impact. It is important to note, however, that the new legislation will not apply to visitors.
Those looking for a more adventurous holiday could also look to Nicaragua, which has followed in the footsteps of neighbouring Costa Rica and attempted to re-brand itself as an exciting holiday destination. Its extraordinary mix of volcanic ranges, rainforests full of interesting wildlife and quaint villages provides and appealing option for those looking for an undiscovered haven.
However, these destinations all present risks for travellers. With the exception of Uruguay, crime presents a credible threat to visitors. Petty theft, including bag-snatching, pickpocketing and theft of valuable items such as jewellery, cameras and smartphones, is a persistent threat to tourists in this region.
In Brazil, express kidnappings are becoming increasingly common. These incidents involve the short-term abduction of an individual, usually by criminal groups, while they are robbed of their possessions and/or forced to empty their bank accounts from ATMs. These incidents usually last for less than 24 hours and the victims are released unharmed.
Additionally, following protests during the FIFA Confederations Cup (FCC), it is likely that further protests based on socio-economic concerns will take place during the FIFA World Cup. These protests are expected to be less violent and better controlled in part due to the $2.2 billion which the Brazilian government has already invested in security for the event. However, those travelling to the World Cup should be cautious of counterfeit tickets and merchandise which will likely be rife.

Whether visiting your own capital or journeying to far-flung destinations, tourists and business professionals are more likely to be a victim of crime than face any other threat. Petty theft is particularly common, and most often takes place in crowded areas such as local markets, tourist hotspots, transportation hubs and other busy or popular areas. However, different locations also present different threats, all of which have the potential to affect individuals abroad.

Asia
Asia continues to prove an attractive region for travel, with the draw of the Orient and the promise of an exotic experience. Indonesia and Myanmar are both expected to see an increase in tourism during 2014. Indonesia’s 18,000 islands offer everything from beaches to volcanoes to exotic wildlife. Bali and Borneo will continue to attract tourists, especially those from Australasia, but lesser-known islands will also emerge for those looking for something more remote. The combination of friendly people, unfamiliar culture and spectacular beaches will draw more people to this archipelago. However, as with a number of other countries in South East Asia, there is a threat of terrorism from local and international extremist groups seeking to establish an Islamic state in the region, including some groups that have been linked to al-Qaeda. However, no serious incidents involving foreign nationals have occurred in recent years, as most groups target national security forces. Indonesia is also located in one of the world's most active seismic zones, the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, and is prone to various natural hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. Flooding is also a concern between November and March.
Myanmar has already seen a boost in tourism, with tourist numbers increasing by 30 per cent to 1.8 million last year. New flight schedules and improved infrastructure will make visiting Myanmar increasingly attractive to slightly more daring tourists. The vast array of temples, most notably the Swedagon Golden Temple, and the country’s history will no doubt attract more visitors in 2014. However, the threat of civil unrest, particularly linked to socio-economic or political issues, is high in Myanmar, with a number of recent incidents when protests have become violent and resulted in injury and the destruction of property. Provided tourists avoid such demonstrations, however, these should not prohibit trips to the country.
For business travellers, India will prove a popular destination, especially for those involved in textile, communication and services industries. Although crime may be a cause for concern to visitors, there is also the potential for terrorist attacks due to the persistent tension regarding the control of the Kashmir region, as well as from Islamist extremists opposed to the government. However, such incidents are infrequent and are unlikely to affect travellers to the country.

Although crime may be a cause for concern to visitors, there is also the potential for terrorist attacks due to the persistent tension regarding the control of the Kashmir region, as well as from Islamist extremists opposed to the government

Africa
The excitement and fun of safaris will continue to draw millions of people to Africa in 2014. Top destinations include South Africa and Kenya, where there are well-established safari operators and facilities. Despite the Westgate Mall attack on 21 September 2013, Kenya will remain an attractive destination for those seeking safari adventures, although extra precautions may be taken. Although the risk of terrorism incidents in Kenya remains high, the Westgate attack highlighted the difficulty in predicting the method, placement and timing of these attacks. Furthermore, in the face of this threat, Rwanda and Uganda could become increasingly popular safari spots, as new visa regulations will allow travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda more freely. With half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, Rwanda may become the new add-on for a full safari experience in 2014. 
For businesses involved in the oil and gas industry, countries such as Nigeria will continue to play a significant role in their operations. The Sahel region (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan) has also been favoured by these organisations due to their natural resources. However, while travel to these areas is possible, visitors will face a variety of threats. The most significant of these will be the threat of kidnapping. Nigeria accounts for 70 per cent of Africa’s kidnappings, and 25 per cent of kidnappings worldwide. It is expected that Nigeria will see an increase in kidnappings in 2014, with criminal and Islamist groups using kidnapping as a form of finance and a means of applying political pressure. Perpetrators have been known to specifically target extractive industry workers for their perceived wealth and conflicting ideological beliefs. Similarly in the Sahel region, kidnapping remains a concern, with porous borders, ineffective policing, continuing socio-economic difficulties and organised groups allowing an escalation of this threat.

Europe
City breaks will remain popular across Europe. Riga, the capital of Latvia, will be the European City of Culture in 2014. The city presents an ideal location for a long weekend away, and will be prepared for an increase in tourism in the coming 12 months. Its City of Culture status is likely to lead to a greater interest in the country, which presents very few difficulties or risks for visitors. The economic downturn in Europe has affected a number of countries, including Latvia – all of which have experienced some increase in protest activity as a result of increasing socio-economic difficulties. However, such demonstrations need not prevent visitors travelling across Europe. Along a similar vein, cities such as Budapest and Prague will continue to receive a high number of tourists in 2014.
Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics from 7 February until 16 March, as well as a Formula One Grand Prix in October, will also draw international visitors to Eastern Europe. Both events will take place in Sochi, located just a few hundred kilometres from the North Caucasus – a volatile separatist region beset by Islamist extremism and extensive criminality. To combat this, security in the vicinity of the Olympic Park will be incredibly high, including a vast surveillance network. Despite this, crime will still be the greatest threat to visitors, including a recent increase in burglaries and carjackings. As mentioned regarding the Brazil FIFIA World Cup, counterfeit tickets and merchandise will most likely be endemic. Organised crime may be rife in Russia, but this should not have too direct an effect on visitors to the region.

Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics from 7 February until 16 March, as well as a Formula One Grand Prix in October, will also draw international visitors to Eastern Europe. Both events will take place in Sochi, located just a few hundred kilometres from the North Caucasus – a volatile separatist region beset by Islamist extremism and extensive criminality

MENA
The Middle East and North Africa has long been associated with extractive industries. The huge array of natural resources in the area makes the region ripe for investment and exploitation of resources by both national and international organisations. However, 2014 may see a shift in operational procedures after a range of incidents highlighted the importance of appropriate security measures for these companies. The attack on an oil and gas plant at In Amenas in Algeria, in which 39 hostages were killed, highlighted the need for crisis procedures as well as pre-emptive steps such as a greater awareness of local threats and site vulnerabilities. As a result of the attack, Statoil released a document which extensively outlined the challenges to the site as well as weaknesses and critical improvements to security measures. There is a sustained risk of such terrorist attacks in this region, along with significant political instability. Industries operating in this region have seen a demonstrable need to ensure there are appropriate security measures in place to mitigate this risk.
For tourists, the region holds many hidden gems including ancient ruins and a wealth of historical interest. However, persistent civil unrest across the region has adversely affected the tourism industry, with Egypt being one of the most affected countries. The tourist industry has suffered considerable losses due to the ongoing civil unrest as a result of political instability, which has caused many potential visitors to shy away from the area. In July and August, tourist arrivals dropped by 45 per cent, with estimated losses since the army takeover of $1 billion per month. However, the southern Sinai resort towns, such as Sharm el-Sheikh, remain comparatively safe and offer a variety of activities to tourists. 2014 will be another challenging period for Egypt’s tourism industry, with those reliant on the industry for jobs and investment attempting to persuade visitors to return to the region.

Hazard Awareness
Despite the risks outlined in this piece, the vast majority of trips abroad, be they for business or pleasure, are completed without serious incident. By raising travellers’ awareness of these issues, individuals are able to take responsibility and ownership of their safety and security when travelling. Basic steps such as ensuring that adequate insurance and contingency plans are obtained can go a long way towards changing a crisis to an inconvenience.