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International SOS Survey Reveals Business Travelers In High-Risk Destinations Value Location-Specific Alerts And Travel-Tracking Capability

A survey of more than 4,700 international business travelers released this week by travel, medical, security and concierge assistance firm International SOS provides a revealing look at the attitudes of international business travelers on travel-tracking technology, the way they use mobile devices to receive information, and the types of travel-related information they want to receive from their employers.

Top industries represented in the 4,746 respondents include technology (20 percent), manufacturing (17 percent), oil/gas/mining (15 percent), banking/insurance finance (10 percent) and telecommunications (10 percent.)

The survey revealed that 60 percent of respondents travel to what they consider to be high-risk destinations once a year, with nearly one in five (16 percent) reporting they travel to destinations they consider to be high risk five times a year or more. Respondents who travel to what they consider to be high-risk destinations indicated by an overwhelming majority — 82 percent — that they are “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with having their location tracked via their mobile device and being sent location-specific alerts and updates while traveling. Additionally, a similar majority — 77 percent — of international business travelers stated they are “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with using their mobile device to provide their location to employers while on the road. The survey results also provide an interesting look at the use of mobile communications devices by international business travelers.

In summary, while smart phones are prevalent among international travelers, most use them only for email. Eighty percent of respondents said they carry a smart phone while traveling, but the vast majority (73 percent) of those same users said they do not use travel-related applications before or during travel.

“The survey confirmed that international business travelers place a high level of importance on the ability to stay informed, on a city and local level, on travel, health and security risks while on the road, but it also revealed some unexpected twists,” said Tim Daniel, Group Executive Vice President. “One of them is that international business travelers traveling in what they consider to be high-risk destinations seem to care far less about the types of ‘privacy’ issues related to location tracking than is typically seen in other sectors.”

“Another interesting element of the survey was the limited way the vast majority of respondents use smart phones, at least as related to travel,” said Daniel. “It’s striking how few international business travelers use any kind of travel-related information applications. It underscores the need for corporate travel managers and corporate security professionals to either educate their travelers on ways they can use their mobile devices more effectively, and, to the extent possible, for them to provide travelers with access to critical information before they embark.”

Survey respondents were asked to rate the type of information they want to receive more of from their employers, or providers appointed by their employers, when travelling and its relative level of importance. The information deemed most essential was, in order:

  • specific city- and local-level information onavailability and location of quality medical services in a given destination
  • disease risks
  • vaccination advice
  • medication availability While use of travel-related applications on mobile devices was revealed to be fairly modest (just 21 percent of all travelers), respondents who do use such apps were asked to rate the importance of each. Those rated most important, in order, were:
  • capability to call for help in an emergency while travelling
  • ability to receive updated medical and security alerts for travel destinations, and
  • ability to receive travel, security or medical advice for selected destinations.

The survey was conducted in March 2011 by research firm David Burnett & Associates.

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