Thursday 12 February 2015

GUEST BLOG: The world is on a knife edge. What does that mean for business travel?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in 1859. The oft-quoted opening line to A Tale of Two Cities referred to events in Paris and London before the French Revolution. But the description could easily apply to global economics and geo-politics of the present day. Commentators and analysts find little consensus, other than uncertainty. There is optimism. There is cynicism. There is confidence. And there is fear. The result is that risk and security are back at the top of the corporate agenda.

When Russia and Ukraine locked horns in early 2014, business travel to the region continued unaffected. Political tension in the region was not uncommon. Commerce usually prevailed amid the posturing. That changed when in July Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine shot down a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet on its way to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

It was not the first disaster to strike Malaysian Airlines in 2014. In March, flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing over the South China Sea. A difficult year for aviation was completed on December 28 when an Air Asia flight from Indonesia to Singapore crashed in bad weather. Statistically, air travel remains the safest mode of transport. But questions are now being asked about how risk can be mitigated.

Risk from terror has increased. Homegrown fundamentalism across Europe has countries on a state of high alert. Government intelligence agencies are working flat out. Cyber criminals are also becoming increasingly erudite. The topic received mainstream coverage in 2014 primarily because of a spate of incidents involved big brands and celebrities.  Ordinary business travellers, however, are at risk each time they take a trip carrying an electronic device. Traveller health is also on the agenda.

The Ebola outbreak is now, for the most part, under control. But health experts warn there are more common bugs with which to be concerned.

The global economy is on the cusp of a sustained recovery. The UK and US have become the unexpected poster boys of growth. And though China is in the midst of a slowdown and the eurozone remains in turmoil, there are genuine reasons for optimism.

Travel managers will play a central role in making sure companies continue to grow and do business in marketplaces around the world. Flexibility, nimbleness and business continuity should be at the core of every strategy.

For a deeper delve into the effects 2015 will have on your travel programme visit Reed and Mackay is exhibiting at the Business Travel Show from 25-26 February 2015. To register for a free pass please visit

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