The war between Russia and Ukraine has made travel to and from those countries impossible. Travel to Belarus is also out of the question due to international sanctions for its support of the Russian invasion. In adjacent countries, like Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, travel has been negatively impacted for security reasons and to keep up with the multitude of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
“No one knows the likelihood of the conflict expanding into the Baltic states, but it could happen and that makes Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia a risky traveler choice until the situation normalizes,” said Global Rescue Security Manager Harding Bush, a former Navy SEAL, who, after serving in the military, worked in war-torn Yemen between 2011 and 2015.
“How will the military conflict in Eastern Europe disrupt the course of early economic recovery following two years of pandemic-related travel restrictions? No one can forecast how long the crisis will last,” Bush said. “But as global sanctions against Russia build and international diplomacy strengthens, the state of affairs will hopefully resolve in the shortest possible time.”
The State of Travel Before Russia-Ukraine CrisisBefore the onset of military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the pandemic recovery signals were loud and clear. Decreasing health impacts from the coronavirus contributed to a travel rebound. Three-quarters of the U.S. population had received at least one vaccination shot, and 64% were fully vaccinated. COVID-19 cases were falling in every state. Deaths and hospitalizations from the disease were decreasing and the omicron variant had not been as serious as originally feared.
Countries like the U.K. dropped all COVID-19 restrictions. New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and others opened up their borders. Nearly every U.S. state had dropped its mask mandates. Nearly half of travelers (49%) had already taken an international trip since the start of the pandemic, reflecting an 88% jump in travel abroad since the summer of 2021, according to the Winter 2022 Global Rescue Travel Safety and Sentiment survey of the world’s most experienced travelers.
Nine out of ten travelers (93%) are less or much less concerned about travel since the pandemic started, reflecting a 72% improvement in individual concerns about travel compared to traveler attitudes at the beginning of 2021. As pandemic fears subside, people are significantly less concerned about travel, and they are driving a significant return to travel.
But the return to travel is still quite volatile, and responsive to global events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Travelers are pumping the brakes on planning international trips, taking a wait-and-see approach as the conflict in Eastern Europe develops. In the week since Russia invaded Ukraine, people searching for international travel dropped by 12 percentage points but regained more than half of that loss in the days following, according to Kayak, an online travel agency, and metasearch engine.
Travelers are also purchasing security service plans that provide emergency evacuation capabilities when they are in danger from insurgent attacks, terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. Traveler requests for Global Rescue’s non-medical security evacuation services jumped 31% since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“War is not a tourist attraction. There are plenty of global destinations with no threat of conflict – make those locations your vacation spot. While concern is high for Eastern European countries directly involved in the conflict, it is premature for travelers to cancel international trips to other countries. Nevertheless, travelers should plan and prepare,” Bush said.
If You Go, Travel Security Protection is Essential
One of the biggest discoveries among travelers during the pandemic was the limitations of travel insurance and the importance of obtaining medical emergency evacuation travel protection that includes COVID-19. The military conflict in Eastern Europe may be the event igniting traveler attention for travel protection services that provide evacuation for non-medical emergencies when you are in danger – like insurgent attacks, social disorder, terrorism, and earthquakes.
“Travel uncertainty generally results in an increase in traveler demand for Global Rescue emergency medical and security services,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue.
Nobody wants to imagine a security emergency abroad. But if you’re traveling or working internationally then the possibility of civil unrest, unpredicted natural disaster, or terrorism is always present. If you’re near a war zone, the potential spikes for a government-issued declaration to evacuate.
“Being proactive and preparing for the possibility of a security emergency could mean the difference between a safe departure and being trapped in a dangerous situation out of your control,” Bush said.
Travelers should obtain Global Rescue’s emergency travel security services that provide evacuation and advisory services.
Travelers must understand what services are provided and under what conditions, too.
“There is often a difference in security service options for a traveler caught up in a conflict and a traveler knowingly entering one,” Bush said.