In its 2018 Global Travel Risk Report, five major areas that could impact global travel are named. The first is the continuing trend of political populism. It points towards the worrying trend of politics being conducted via social media, meaning it will be harder to determine the veracity of political leaders’ statements in 2018. The rise of leaders such as Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Sebastian Kurz in Austria could also lead to civil unrest and political violence in their respective violence due to their ‘decisive rhetoric’, say Northcott. With the UK’s Brexit decision still in limbo, 2018 will leave UK travellers or EU citizens wanting to visit with an element of uncertainty.
Northcott also predicts that more countries will take a strict and nationalist approach following President Trump’s ban on travellers from certain countries. Northcott also believes that, despite President Trump’s twitter feed, the US is unlikely to make any serious towards the nuclear disarmament of North Korea, meaning fear of conflict will persist in South Korea – an issue magnified by the arrival of thousands of Athletes for the Winter Olympics in February.
Changes in terror tactics in 2017 means that terrorism is again a major concern for travellers in 2018. Many western destinations were affected in 2017, and the growing use of vehicles in the attacks has turned everyday items into weapons. Northcott says in the report that this has already altered traveller behaviour, with Easter European cities such as Prague and Bratislava becoming more appealing for travellers. Northcott also believes that the Football World Cup, which is to be held in Russia, will be an opportunity for Caucasian separatists to conduct ‘large-scale, spectacular atrocities.
Middle Eastern terrorism will develop again, say Northcott, with tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabian high, the growing role of Russia in the Middle Eastern region and Trump’s provocation of the region through his declaration on Jerusalem, which Northcott says will probably lead to a rise in in recruitment to extreme Islamist separatist groups. These trends will lead to more travellers than ever making use of terrorist cover travel insurance options.
Economically, 2018 looks bright, according to Northcott, with India, Russia, Brazil and China all predicted to enjoy steady growth. Investors travelling to all these countries will still need insurance, medical evacuation and emergency evacuation plans in place.
Cyber crime will lead to increasing disruption, predicts Northcott, and 2018 is expected to be the worst year ever for data theft. On a global scale, Russian hackers will continue to sell personal data to the highest bidder online, whilst hotels and transport hubs will continue to be a target for smaller hackers. The travel industry must find new ways to guarantee online security, asserts Northcott.
With climate change showing no signs of slowing down, the risk of trips being affected by natural disasters is only going to grow in 2018, with California’s wildfires and Switzerland’s heavy snowfall already disrupting travel for many this year already. Health risks are harder to predict, says Northcott, but ‘Australian Flu’ is already generating fears of a global pandemic, with large numbers of cases in France and the UK already.
The report finishes: “2018 will be another year of uncertainty for the international traveller, and will pose all manner of risks to investors. However, as it becomes easier to share knowledge, provide services and connect with people around the world, these risks become increasingly straightforward to manage and control.”