Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.

We asked three travel safety experts what trends they think people should be keeping an eye on in 2018. 


Craig Webb, Security and Political Risk Analyst at Healix International

Website: http://www.healix-international.com/
Twitter: @healix_security

 

Craig is a London-based Security and Political Risk Analyst at Healix International and HX Global. His professional work focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region, though he also contributes to a number of global risk management products and service offerings. Healix International and HX Global are leading providers of global travel risk management and international medical, security and travel assistance services.

What three travel or travel safety issues do you think people should keep an eye on in 2018?

Geopolitical Trends

Going into 2018, there are a number of emerging geopolitical trends that will likely shape travel and travel security. Since the global economic crash in 2007-2008, we have witnessed a notable uptick in the prevalence of anti-establishment movements throughout the economically developed world and in recent years, these movements have successfully harnessed populist sentiment and gathered substantial support. Through 2016 and 2017 there have been successive democratic outcomes that mainstream commentators and analysts considered impossible; notably the ‘Brexit’ vote and the election of US President Donald Trump. These moves have legitimised radical policy deviations and encouraged an atmosphere of global uncertainty in exchange for domestic support. The impact on global travel is generally nuanced and difficult to quantify, though some examples aptly demonstrate the ramifications, e.g. the ‘Trump travel ban’ and uncertainty surrounding future UK/EU relations and travel rights. With global relations in a state of flux, travellers should be mindful of further landmark decisions that will affect the financial and practical viability of travel to certain countries and regions.

Proxy conflicts

Continuing the theme of radical policy deviation, populist groups in the UK/US have increasingly called for a withdrawal of financial and material support for overseas causes, particularly those in the Middle East. The most notable example has been President Trump’s insistence on the withdrawal of US resources from ongoing conflicts in favour of his domestic America First programme. Though we have not yet witnessed the wholesale withdrawal of US military power from the Middle East, we have noted an increased reluctance to commit to controversial policy decisions; e.g. unwillingness to lead mediation efforts between two former US allies, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government. As a result, US strategy remains unclear and the country’s influence as a global leader is increasingly tenuous. A number of regional actors are working to fill this leadership vacuum, including both Iran and Saudi Arabia. We have witnessed the increasingly central role played by proxy actors in recent years, notably in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, and this is likely to grow as regional contestation intensifies.

Terrorist De-Centralisation

Through 2016-2017, we noted two related trends; the steady defeat of militant jihadist groups from a conventional military perspective and the concurrent decentralisation of said groups globally. Militant jihadist groups, notably the Islamic State (IS) no longer hold substantial tenable territory in Iraq, Syria or Libya, though the group has sought to solidify its global presence, both physically and virtually. IS has secured a lasting presence in Southeast Asia and affiliates even held territory in the Philippine city of Marawi for several months. Elsewhere, intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of IS’s virtual survival strategy and testimonies from former fighters have since confirmed that the group values its continued online presence. IS has traditionally used its online presence to support its war fighting, but has increasingly shifted these policies to support insurgency movements and to direct international attacks. A further uptick in the frequency of insurgency-style attacks is highly likely in Iraq/Syria over the coming year, while attacks utilising unsophisticated/improvised weaponry will remain the modus operandi globally.


Matthew Davies FRGS, Director at Remote Area Risk International

Email: davies@R2Rinternational.com
Website: www.R2Rinternational.com

 

Matthew Davies FRGS is a Travel Risk Management and Remote Area Risk specialist, certified Duty of Care Practitioner – as well as a specialist lawyer within this area. He has over 25 years experience in the field, is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has led expeditions in and trained teams for various environments including desert and arctic circle expeditions. He is a drafting committee member for BS:8848.

What three travel or travel safety issues do you think people should keep an eye on in 2018?

Increased risks to U.S. travellers (and by default, English speaking westerners mistaken for U.S. citizens) following the Trump administration announcement regarding Jerusalem. Be vigilant and avoid external trappings associating yourself with the U.S.

Get the basics right. Insurance, Insurance, Insurance. For obvious reasons, but people still foolishly fail to take it out for a whole list of reasons (expense, time etc). If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. There are cases every year where crowdfunding groups are set up to fund the medical expenses and repatriation of those being injured overseas and are uninsured. Travel, insurance is relatively cheap. Read it. Check it covers what you are doing. Buy it.

Cyber security. Risks for travellers are ever increasing. Keep abreast of developing risks in this field.


global-rescue

Dan Richards, CEO and Founder at Global Rescue

Email: press@globalrescue.com
Website: https://www.globalrescue.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlobalRescue
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/global-rescue-llc

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of integrated health, safety and travel risk management services. Since 2004, the firm has pioneered the delivery of medical, rescue and evacuation services to some of the earth’s most difficult places.

What three travel or travel safety issues do you think people should keep an eye on in 2018?

Vulnerability in crowds

One major takeaway from 2017 is that travelers are most vulnerable in large crowds. Terrorist actors have been effective at using cars, trucks, explosives, guns, knives, swords, and other weapons to target densely congested areas with symbolic value. In 2018, travelers should be aware of this vulnerability and take precautions when in highly populated venues or at crowded events.  Safety measures include learning the locations of exits, parking lots or bus zones before arriving at the venue, deciding on a meeting place to gather if an incident occurs and your group is separated, and adhering to the venues list of prohibited items.

Increased risk in more popular travel destinations

Many popular travel destinations have encountered a variety of risks and threats in recent times. People will always want to visit the famous destinations. Crime, pollution, traffic congestion and tourist saturation increasingly are becoming problems in many popular destinations.  There are, however, many travel venues that are less well-known but nonetheless spectacular for their scenery, hospitality and cultural uniqueness.

In 2018, travelers may want to consider visiting ‘off-the-beaten-path’ destinations or less populated areas where travel safety issues are less likely. For example, many of the traditional travel destinations in Europe are currently experiencing tourist saturation, immigrant integration problems and threats of terrorism. Lesser known venues such as the Adriatic region, the Balkans and Eastern Europe offer a good mix of cultural offerings, scenery and safety. Similarly, a tour of the coastal towns of Croatia, may be seen as a safer option for a beach vacation compared to French Riviera towns such as Nice. With any travel, research and preparation will greatly enhance the travel experience and allow the traveler to access the risks associated with a particular location.

Digital security risks

In the coming year, travelers should be wary of their digital security blind spots.  Travelers may be unaware that their mobile devices could compromise their safety.  Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are protected at home, but in a new location with unknown threats, even seasoned travelers are vulnerable. It is necessary for travelers to protect themselves against digital threats by taking precautions such as using encrypted e-mail, or virtual private network (VPN), being aware of the political climate in their destination country and assuming their online behavior may be monitored, or maintaining a low electronic footprint while traveling.

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