Natural disasters, extremism, elections and social unrest will join the continuing impact of Covid-19 across the world as the major threats and disruptions to travellers in 2022, according to a new report from Riskline, the global travel risk intelligence company.
The company’s team of analysts on the ground across the world who monitors travel news, security developments, and political crises in person, has identified 10 key trends and potential issues - not in priority or order of magnitude - for travellers and travel managers with a duty of care to watch for in 2022.
#1 Extreme weather
Climate change is likely to exacerbate extreme weather conditions in the future, testing the limits of emergency readiness and infrastructure. Catastrophic floods, wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, and droughts will speed up climate migration.
Meeting the disruptions caused by extreme weather will require a more ambitious plan against climate change, as well as adaptive infrastructure and boosting emergency services to withstand the effect of future natural disasters. Attention will be focused on the planned investments in clean energy agreed at the recent COP26 summit and the progress towards targets set for 2030 and beyond to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
#2 Future of the pandemic and its impact
The impact of Covid-19 will persist beyond 2021. Education, work and other aspects of public life will continue in hybrid mode. To avoid lockdowns, governments will encourage booster shots, distancing, and restricting public life for unvaccinated individuals.
More supply chain disruptions and worker shortages cannot be ruled out and the hospitality and travel industries in particular will be harder hit by continued uncertainties. The Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) forecasts that air traffic in Europe will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
Transitioning back to a pre-pandemic state will entail continuing vaccination efforts, such as expanding vaccine access in developing countries and combating misinformation and backlash against health measures.
#3 Struggle to vaccinate the world
Protests against COVID-19 vaccination, as well as vaccine supply and distribution issues in relatively less wealthy countries, will continue into 2022. Vaccination rates will likely pick up pace as vaccine manufacturers plan to increase production and wealthier countries donate excess vaccines, but the fact that the vast majority of the population is not vaccinated against COVID-19 in some countries will mean that restrictions on travel to and from those countries will be maintained by many others in the near-term.
#4 Critical elections: The US, France, and Brazil
In the US, political polarisation will continue. Lingering economic malaise and hesitancy around the Covid-19 vaccine have limited post-pandemic recovery. A lack of commitment to election reform and a trend towards refusing the legitimacy of electoral results will remain key issues.
In France, elections for the presidency in 2022 are no longer a sure thing and there is increasing polarisation ahead of Brazil’s elections in October 2022, too. Mass demonstrations are likely.
#5 The next epidemic
The pandemic exposed serious fault lines within societies. For example, right-wing populism has given birth to very vocal politics of defiance against public health measures in some Western democracies, such as the US and Australia.
International cooperation on infectious diseases also suffered, despite global public-private partnerships to develop vaccines. China's refusal to examine the origins of the virus have greatly dented its reputation, while the political partisanship and high loss of life in Western democracies, particularly the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK), has tarnished these countries' images. To manage a future pandemic, trust and cooperation must be rebuilt between countries, and between public health officials and the general public.
#6 New focus for extremism: Afghanistan, Central Asia, India and Sri Lanka
According to the United Nations (UN), there are approximately 10,000 foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan. IS-K and other groups are recruiting further afield, into Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and China. The efforts of many Central Asian governments to build relationships with the Taliban are unlikely to provide security guarantees.
India faces threats from both Hindu and Islamist extremism, and a tense environment surrounding extremism continues to exist in Sri Lanka, too.
#7 Water scarcity and famine
There is a 72 percent chance that 2022 will be hotter than previous years, causing droughts to worsen across the Middle East and North Africa. This will impact farming, leading to food shortages in countries including Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Madagascar, and Nigeria. A lack of clean water causes high rates of malnutrition and waterborne illnesses, leading to displacement, crime and possibly violent unrest in affected areas.
#8 Africa: Conflicts and Coups
Several conflicts in Africa took on new dimensions in 2021 and are likely to continue unabated through 2022. Key issues are the conflict in Ethiopia and armed militant groups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Four coups occurred in 2021 alone, with new military leaders overthrowing governments in Mali, Chad, Guinea, and Sudan. Corrupt elites, poverty, and bad governance mean more coups lie ahead.
#9 Pandemic-driven crime waves
A rise in crime will continue in developing countries after seeing a marked rise since Covid-19. Theft, trafficking of goods, bandit attacks, and kidnappings have risen in some African countries. Across the Americas, drug traffickers and criminal groups have become more brazen. Gang-related shootings are commonplace in Caracas and in borderlands across Latin America.
#10 COVID-19 and the Africa-Europe migrant route
The African continent has low vaccination rates, weak healthcare systems, and fragile economies. Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda weathered Covid-19 poorly. The slashing of aid budgets and unsustainable living conditions has forced thousands to attempt migration routes through North Africa into Europe. The migrant journey has been affected by tightened border restrictions and the use of Covid-19 as a reason to reduce asylum intake. Public health measures to limit migrant arrivals will be upheld as the tide of anti-refugee sentiment in Europe grows.
Emanuele Scansani, Director of Partnerships and Strategic Relations at Riskline