International Travel Problems Business Travelers Face

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We live in a time where we seem to be in an ever expanding digital world, where increasingly everything is electronically connected, instantaneous, and involves social interaction through digital platforms. A comment made in Houston today can be heard around the world in minutes.
It is understood that B2C products may need little direct human interaction to enable frequent and regular business flows to happen. Today, B2C trade is driven often, only by machine learning of personalized information and fast web access, however, there is always a need for humans to connect first, for these global transactions to be set in motion. This is especially true in B2B business relationships, where it is necessary to have face-to-face contact, at least in the beginning phases of developing business partnerships and while foundational relationships are being built. First, in-person meetings have been found to increase rapport and empathy, facilitating cooperation and enhancing bonds between the parties in emerging business relationships.

U.S. International Business Travel Forecast

U.S. International Business Travel Spending and Trips, With Year-Over-Year Change
travel problems blog chart


Source: Global Business Travel Association Foundation research released in July 2012

International travel is one of the several channels through which international technology transfer can take place. Travel can help facilitate the exchange of information and transfer of ideas. Specifically, international business travel may link travelers familiar with foreign technology with domestic entrepreneurs and foster domestic innovation. Research shows that international business travel from the US to about 75 countries for the years 1993 to 2003 had a positive impact on these countries’ rate of innovation, as measured by patenting activity,1 above and beyond technology transfer through international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).2 Moreover, the effect of U.S. business travelers on innovation is stronger for patents which have U.S. co-inventors, which is plausible because these travelers may, in fact, be the inventors themselves.

As scholars have noted, in an age of globalization, changing world powers, and rapid economic development and growth, it would be incoherent to conduct business remotely. Studies also report that international business travel boosts innovation and economic prosperity: “a 10% increase in business travel leads to an increase in patenting by about 0.3%.” Another recent investigation concluded that each international business trip increases U.S. exports to the country visited by over $36K per annum. Then there is the business travel industry, which in the U.S. alone is worth around $300 billion.

As the World Travel Monitor® results for the first eight months of 2016 made clear, worldwide outbound travel remains on the growth path despite terror attacks and political unrest. The number of worldwide outbound trips grew by 3.9%, led by Asia (+11%), including 18% growth in the rapidly developing Chinese market, and the USA (+7%). European outbound travel grew by 2.5%, with good growth from the UK (+6%) and Germany (+4%). Worldwide inbound tourism increased by 4% in the first nine months of 2016, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. The outlook for 2017 is very positive, with world outbound travel predicted to grow by between 4% and 5%, driven once again by Asia and the USA and with stronger growth out of Europe.

In a global, increasingly digital and mobile economy, it is not uncommon for employees to travel domestically and across international borders frequently, to conduct company business. Today, this is increasingly happening in emerging markets in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The fact is that most business trips are completed successfully and without any problems. Commercial traveling is a vital piece to the well-being of many organizations. Likewise, the welfare of the employees who travel on work needs to be a priority.

Figure 1.1

Estimated monthly prevalence of health per 100,000 travelers to tropical areas.

(URI=upper respiratory infection, HIV=human immunodeficiency virus)

travel problems blog graph

While data is limited, research by Workplace Health International Ltd. In Canada suggests the following problems from a review of the literature:

  • 36% to 54% of travelers experience physical health problems such as insomnia, respiratory problems, and skin problems
  • 6% to 18% report accidents and injuries while abroad
  • Psychosocial data are equally limited, but support the idea that IBTs may experience stress, anxiety, culture shock, and adjustment problems while overseas


The GBTA or Global Business Travel Association recently surveyed 500 business travelers and reported that they had identified travel delays (weather, flight cancellation, missed connections, etc.) as the top misfortunes encountered while travelling on business. They also highlighted safety as a major concern during their work excursions (airlines, hotel location and knowing who to call in case of an emergency).

Table 1.1

Reported Deaths of U.S. Citizens by Cause of Death

Vehicle-related accidents569
Other accidents207
Natural disaster42
Terrorist action51
Train accident11
Maritime accident10
Under investigation1
*From October 1. 2002 to December 31, 2004 NOTE: This chart does not represent a statistically complete account of U.S. citizen deaths abroad. The chart depicts only deaths that were reported to the Department of State for which it was possible to establish that death was not due to natural causes. Most U.S. citizens who die abroad are resident abroad. Also, it is difficult to establish how many deaths go unreported to the Department os State. Note also that deaths attributed to “terrorist action” do not include deaths of U/S/ military and government personnel in Iraq.

Corporations generally carry a legal obligation called Duty of Care where the employers are responsible for the health, safety and security of their employees. This happens legally, as a natural consequence of the employment relationship. However, very few organizations actually have comprehensive programs in place that thoroughly address the mishaps encountered by employees in their travels. It is no coincidence that one of the major concerns outlined in the survey was the employee not knowing whom to call in case of an emergency. Clearly, business travelers do not feel cared for.

For an a HR or risk professional, protecting the health and safety of the traveling staff should be a top priority.

The employees need to know that their organization will take care of them, especially in case of an emergency while they’re traveling. Emergency protocols to should be communicated the staff to ensure full awareness of all the health and safety measures available to them when traveling.

Table 1.2

Global Road Toll Tact Sheet

1.7 million people die annually on roads worldwide.
30 million people are injured annually on roads worldwide.
Road crashes are the single greatest cause of premature death and injury in men ages 15-45.
Road crashes are the 5th leading cause of death in women.
20% of fatal accidents in developing countries involve children younger that the age of 15.
Road accidents will soon become the 3rd greatest health burden worldwide.
More than 80% of all road deaths and serious injuries occur in developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
More than 40% of the accidents occur in countries in the Asian-Pacific region.
Road accidents cost developing countries 100 billion U.S. dollars annually.

From the Association for Sale International Road Travel, Used with permission.


A company’s actions during a crisis will leave a lasting impression – such decisive moments not only shape the perception of directly affected employees, but of the workforce as a whole. The goal is to leave a positive impression.

As much as traveling for work can be fun (squeezing sightseeing between meetings, trying new foods), travel can also cause a lot of stress—especially when meeting with clients from a different business culture. polled 4,500 business travelers from eight countries about some of their biggest worries on the road. While basic logistics and concern for personal property are prominent on their lists of concern, this survey also uncovered an interesting additional concern related to multicultural interaction and effective cross language communication.

Twenty-six percent of people said that “language issues” were their number-one concern when traveling abroad for work, with another 13 percent mentioning “cultural norms,” 21 percent stressing about getting around in an unfamiliar city, and 16 percent nervous about meeting and presenting to new people. That adds up to a lot of stress about regional differences and etiquette, compounded by the fact that phrase books and instant electronic language teaching aids are not likely to solve your problem.

Given that businesses often report that travel represents the largest cost category for them, it is the budget area they often seek to cut costs in the most. This is probably one reason why these many concerns of international travelers are not addressed; it costs money. But, also given that the future well-being of the business often depends on the success of these trips it is important that companies attempt to address the various concerns of these travelers. Much can be accomplished via technology but face-to-face contact is proven to be the most reliable way to build lasting business relationships and partnerships.

In some cases, companies have identified the risks their employees usually face and have come up with “Travel Safety Fact Sheets” that detail proactive behaviors when in the airport, when renting a car, when checking in to a hotel, when driving and when faced with an uncomfortable situation. Nonetheless, they do not provide any assistance if an unintended outcome, accident or mishap does indeed happen. The idea seems to be that if the employee does not get in the way of harm, accidents will not occur. Other companies provide their employees with insurance coverage but do not provide a network of assistance. Travelers, who do experience mishaps or emergencies, are going to be especially concerned about the manner in which these travel emergencies are handled, as much of the documentation will be multilingual and efficient resolution will likely require that critical documents are efficiently and properly translated.

Understanding that the primary objective of global travel is to further business initiatives, it also makes great sense that businesses invest in ensuring that “language issues” are addressed. If business presentations are only made in English, their impact is likely to be much more limited. Using random interpreting and translation services at the last minute can compromise months of preparation and build-up to these pivotal meetings. While proper care and planning and insurance is needed to address the logistic and security risks that travelers face, it is also necessary to ensure that travelers have professional and high caliber support for their multilingual communication needs. This can range from having slide presentations and support documents translated for the larger audience at the travel destination and also possibly having a competent and trusted interpreter available on call (via Skype or teleconferencing) to support discussions of critical business matters. It is actually surprising how many companies overlook all of these issues, and risk Duty of Care violations, and undermine business communication efforts by trying to acquire ‘cheap’ translation services.

Having such an insurance and travel and translation support framework in place that could adequately respond to the mishaps encountered by the traveler represents an investment, which can sometimes be large, but the returns are significant. Employee morale and confidence is said to be the largest predictor of success. Knowing that you are cared for, no matter what happens you have company support is critical in the boosting the morale and confidence of travelling employees.

MasterWord’s expertise is providing accurate, technically sound, and culturally appropriate translation services into all major languages. From a critical presentation to your business partners or a medical report in a language of limited diffusion, to summary translation of a press release, and to all projects in between these extremes, we can adjust our production processes to deliver the required quality levels to ensure your international communication needs are successful in achieving your core business mission.

Involving unqualified (‘cheap’) translators equals compromising a translated content’s quality, and, by default, compromising our clients’ goals and wasting their time. At MasterWord we never compromise on quality standards, yours or ours.

MasterWord can provide a range translation support for emergency, insurance claims and business support:

  1. Travel emergency claim documentation and communications support for speedy resolution
  2. Business materials (presentations, proposals, marketing documents and other materials for larger audience)
  3. Over-the-phone or video-remote interpreter to assist in actual real-time communications


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