The Top Travel Risks to Look Out for in 2020

The Top Travel Risks to Look Out for in 2020

By David DeMoss

There is a lot happening right now — with the 2020 U.S. election coming up, the Coronavirus outbreak, and natural disasters continuing to plague different parts of the world, travelers should be prepared for possible risks that could put a damper on their plans in the upcoming future. 

Riskline recently came out with their 10 travel risks of 2020 list (pre-Coronavirus), and some of it isn’t what you’d expect. By now, we’re no stranger to climate change — and with that comes water shortages. These shortages are expected to worsen, affecting areas like the Middle East, Italy, Spain, and southwestern parts of the U.S. like New Mexico and California. To piggyback off of that, climate change will also bring other natural disasters such as floods, fires, hurricanes, and more. These events will temporarily shut down businesses and disrupt airline schedules, causing many businesses to experience financial losses. In addition, far-right and Islamic terrorism is expected to remain a pertinent issue in the United States, especially as President Trump ramps up his campaign before the election. Finally, the U.S.-China trade war fallout and 2015 Brexit undoubtedly strayed from the political norms when it comes to finances, and it looks like these two major events will continue to cause economic interference for many businesses in the following years. More details from Danielle Ling below.

Travel risk intelligence company Riskline recently published its ranking and analysis of the top 10 travel risks of 2020, and the two most important causes of travel risks may come as a surprise.

Aiming to accurately predict the greatest threats of the year ahead, Riskline’s research and published findings are intended to help businesses find success and mitigate their risk exposures.

“A careful examination of ongoing and emerging trends provides crucial information for businesses planning the year ahead,” Adam Schrader, director of operations at Riskline, said in a statement.

“All of the predicted risks we’ve shared are equally important, but two of them, in particular, will underpin the most dangerous security threats in 2020.”

10. Water shortage

As heat waves continue to worsen in severity and duration, Riskline warns protests over water scarcity and quality are likely to multiply in 2020. The areas most at-risk are water-stressed nations like India and Pakistan, and in Middle Eastern countries including Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. In the Western Hemisphere, pockets of extreme water scarcity will likely spawn public discontent in affected regions of Italy, Spain, and the U.S., particularly in the states of New Mexico and California.

9. International sporting events

Drawing large, public crowds and security concerns, major sporting events inevitably pose an unlikely but high-cost risk of terrorism to travelers and attendees. 2020 will host a number of major global events, among them are the Summer Olympics in Japan, the UEFA Euro, the Copa América in Argentina and Colombia and the three cycling Grand Tours, all of which could pose risks to travelers.

8. MENA Geopolitics: the role of Russia

Russia will undoubtedly continue to engage in geopolitical warfare in the Middle East and against the U.S. in 2020, playing what Riskline calls a spoiler role in the region. In the U.S., with the 2020 presidential election just months away, Russian election meddling efforts have already been detected by federal officials, again putting the entire democratic election process at immeasurable risk.

7. Anti-systemic protests: democracy and nationalism

In 2019 there was a considerable rise in anti-systemic protests across the world, notably in Latin America, parts of Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. As popular discontent with governments grows in many countries due to economic and social issues, expect these protest movements to grow in volume and frequency in 2020, Riskline says.

6. Internet outages and the increasing cost of business

In 2018 and 2019, internet blackouts aimed at stopping the spread of anti-government protests cost Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Chad, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela, billions of dollars in lost economic activity. This tactic will continue to prevail in 2020 as governments prefer to contain, rather than address, discontent expressed online.

5. Infectious disease outbreak amid ongoing migration

The coronavirus outbreak has already made this 2020 risk prediction a reality. Riskline warns that large and highly mobile populations, increasing urbanization, weak government responses and deprived healthcare infrastructure, as well as attacks on healthcare workers in conflict zones, coupled with the effects of climate change are all making outbreaks of diseases like Ebola, cholera, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne diseases more frequent.

4. Far-right terrorism

Far-right politicians and media organizations will gain further prominence in the Western world in 2020, particularly as President Trump intensifies his campaigning for the presidential election in November. Attacks similar to the deadly March 2019 shootings at a mosque and an Islamic center in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, remain possible particularly in the U.S., as right-wing groups gain more appeal and expand their presence in mainstream American politics.

3. Islamist Terrorism

Islamist terrorism will remain a risk for travelers in 2020 as former members of the weakened Islamic State (ISIS) will be looking to carry out reprisal attacks following the death of former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S.-led raid in Syria in October 2019. Former ISIS fighters and ISIS-inspired individuals will look to carry out lone-wolf attacks in any country with large numbers of foreign visitors.

2. A collapsing world order: U.S. 2020, Brexit, U.S.-China trade war

The results of the 2015 Brexit referendum in the U.K. 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 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. When the U.K. leaves the EU, this will lead to major economic changes in the trading bloc and at the same time, EU members will face further economic disruptions from the U.S.-China trade war fallout as, so far, none of President Trump’s Democratic rivals have promised to remove the tariffs imposed by his administration.

1. Climate change and its impact on travel

Climate change has led to abnormal patterns of torrential rainfall, devastating floods, severe storms, prolonged heat waves and increased temperatures – all leading to growing water scarcity, droughts and dangerous wildfires. With the increased frequency of these natural disasters – for example, Hurricane Dorian which caused massive destruction across the Bahamas in September 2019 – fatalities, business and travel disruptions and power and communication outages are becoming recurrent. Efforts to reverse the damage caused by climate change are insufficient as the United States, the second-largest carbon emitter, plans to withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement in 2020 if Trump wins another term in office.

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