April 24, 2024

Corporate Nex Hub

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Uncertainty to Strategy: Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Business Travel Risk

4 min read
Dale Buckner is the CEO of risk management firm Global Guardian
Dale Buckner is the CEO of risk management firm Global Guardian

With business
travel expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024 and
crises continuing to emerge worldwide, companies are recognizing the need for
robust planning. Our world order has changed drastically in recent years. In
response to a shifting global landscape, longstanding geopolitical tensions in
Eastern Europe and the Middle East have erupted into wars. Their impact, which
is felt throughout the surrounding regions and across the international
business community, stands as a clear reminder of the new world in which we now

must be increasingly vigilant in protecting their travelers from existing
conflicts and safeguarding them against potential threats in the future. Safety
isn’t impossible, it just requires intentionality. Here are some key ways
corporations can approach the current business travel risk landscape to ensure
the safety of their employees, infrastructure and assets, no matter where they

Understand Geopolitics

risk management has long included elements such as crime rates, government
stability and natural disasters. While these are essential to understanding the
threat of traveling abroad, they are no longer sufficient alone. Comprehensive
risk assessments must account for the rise of geopolitical tensions when
considering international travel. Overlaying geopolitics within resources like
the 2024 Global Guardian Risk Map provides a deeper level of insight into areas
such as supply chains, government stability and the ability to work across

the underlying tensions that drive existing threats also allows corporations to
anticipate and prepare for new threats. Conflict is rarely isolated, with the
effects often rippling throughout the surrounding regions. The conflict in
Gaza, for instance, has evolved into a regional issue that continues to have a
serious impact on Red Sea shipping lanes and the international
Understanding the nuanced relationships between nation-states and different
regional, political and ethnic groups helps equip corporate executives to make
the best decisions for their personnel and stakeholders.

Time has made
it increasingly clear that geopolitics dictates the future of international
business. Having an in-depth understanding of the players, motivations and
potential outcomes in these situations is the key to successfully navigating
business abroad.

Get Specific

Painting with
broad brush strokes about “high-risk” or “low-risk” countries ignores the
nuances of a geopolitical world. Modern risk involves much more than the threat
of a tsunami or gang violence, and not all travelers face the same threats. For
instance, a traveler’s connection to certain industries or affiliation with
specific political stances can dramatically alter the level of risk associated
with international travel. For example, China might be a higher-risk
destination for a business executive in the defense industry than for a tourist
with no ties to politics or national security. In the information age, foreign
governments can mine travelers’ backgrounds, and threats to traveler safety can
be buried in their past.

vetting every employee before travel allows companies to have a detailed
understanding of their risk levels. Partnering with private agencies to identify
any potential causes for detainment is critical to ensuring the safety of all
staff members. This assessment allows companies to continue safely sending
vetted employees to countries experiencing geopolitical friction, rather than
simply labeling them “high risk” and losing all access.

Think in Terms of “What Is Possible”

America needs to shift its mindset to consider what is in the realm of
possible, not just what is normal. This is where businesses keep getting
caught. When Russia invaded Ukraine, unprepared corporations lost billions of dollars. An invasion or blockade
of the Taiwan Strait would have a profound impact on the global economy, potentially totaling
more than $10 trillion. The world is constantly shifting, and
corporate leaders must stay proactive about anticipating and mitigating

Risks that
seemed outrageous or farfetched in prior years are now accepted as a common
feature of international business travel. Cyber attacks, hacking, ransomware,
stolen IP, even the detainment of corporate executives—the threats to
travelers and their companies are constantly expanding. 

Instead of
waiting for the next crisis, corporate executives must begin preparing now for eventualities
in the short, medium and long term. Planning for possibilities such as losing a
market or supply chain due to interstate conflicts isn’t going the extra mile
anymore. It’s smart and necessary business. Preparing for the expected is no
longer enough; corporations must be ready for the unexpected.

Understand the Principles of Preparedness 

Building a
principles-based approach around potential risks is central to creating the
framework that keeps companies safe amidst a wide range of threats. Cementing
the basic principles—communications, ability to respond, assets in and around
the crisis zone—is integral to protecting a company’s people and infrastructure,
especially since these principles can be applied to almost any emergency.

Make no
mistake, the threats of operating within our changing world will continue to
evolve. Developing a nuanced understanding of the geopolitical underpinnings of
nation-states is rapidly emerging as a mandatory precaution for executives. Change
is constant—and planning for resiliency is key to ensuring the safety of
employees, assets and infrastructure.


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