Will the Ebola Scare Affect Corporate Travel?

Ebola is still the news of the day but what impact will it have on corporate travel? The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) surveyed 421 corporate travel managers last week. Eighty percent said that the recent Ebola news would have little or no impact on international travel while ninety percent said the same about domestic travel. Put another way, 20% said this news about Ebola will impact their international travel and 10% said it would also affect their domestic travel.

Some may wonder why only 20% of these managers are concerned about the Ebola news affecting their travelers. The answer probably lies in the GBTA membership. Corporate travel manager members represent everything from Fortune 500 companies to small local firms. The smaller companies might not have any business interests in Africa, much less the trouble zone of West Africa. It seems rational that most of them would say that this won’t have any impact on their travel plans. GBTA did not include a breakdown of the size of the member firms so admittedly this is more of a guess than any actual knowledge.

GBTA

Looking at other survey results, 52% of those managers who do have business in West Africa plan to restrict their travel. Seems to me this number is on the low side. However, it is worth noting that some GBTA members are non-profits who may be offering humanitarian aid in this region and thus have no plans to reduce their travel. I can tell you with certainty that one of my clients, a Fortune 200 company, is most definitely addressing this issue because of their interests in Nigeria even though there are currently no active Ebola cases there and other African countries.

More surprising is that 10% of the respondents say that this news will impact their domestic corporate travel. Not sure why Ebola would have any relationship to U.S. travel but it is possible – guessing here again – that maybe it was because of the timing of the survey. If you recall, last week was the height of Ebola scariness when two nurses contracted the Ebola virus from the first U.S. victim and one of them was flying between Dallas and Cleveland.

So will Ebola negatively impact corporate travel? Of course there is no way to know yet but from my contacts, I do not see any material changes in planned travel with the possible exception of Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes there is a possibility of a greater outbreak in West Africa but until that happens – or until we see greater numbers of cases outside Africa – it seems to be business as usual for most corporate travelers.

Fortunately I have no plans to travel to Africa, not even Nigeria. Instead my current assignment is the safe environment of Mexico. No Ebola here, just more mundane things like drug cartels, gangs, armed robberies, and kidnappings. J

For those who may be interested, GBTA is presenting a webinar on this topic. At noon EDT on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, the presentation will be on “Risk Radar: Managing the Medical and Security Implications of the Ebola Epidemic – How Will You Protect Your Travelers?” The cost is free for GBTA members, $99 for non-members.

Disclosure: I am a member of GBTA.

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