I applaud the travel industry for its resilience in the face of the global pandemic. By all indications travel is slowly beginning to return. To aid in the recovery some sophisticated tools have been developed to evaluate risk and track demand. These include the comprehensive travel recovery insights portal from BCG, ARC and 3Victors and the demand forecast portal developed by McKinsey & Company.
The industry seems to be approaching a clear risk assessment scoring system (whether formal or informal) for destinations. Great news, but what about personal risk? The future must be a combination of the risk of traveling to the destination and one’s own health history dictating your own personal risk.
A recent article in the local Michigan news site MLive, should give the travel industry some solace. MLive interviewed four leading Michigan public health experts and asked them to rate 36 activities for a risk level (1-10 with 10 as most risky). As one might expect, the highest risk level of 9 was assigned to bars and large music festivals. This was followed by scores of 8 for sports stadiums, amusement parks, churches, and buffets. The transportation and lodging elements of travel actually did well in this scoring with airplanes scoring a risk score of a 5 and hotels receiving a score of 3! These experts are essentially stating they believe it is safer to travel on an airplane and stay at a hotel than going to your local bar or attending church services.
Whether you agree with these ratings or you embrace the emerging destination risk scoring platforms that are being developed, the other side of the risk equation, one’s own personal risk assessment has not been given enough focus by the travel industry. Of course, there has been plenty of talk about antibody testing and contact tracing, but the number one risk factor is a person’s own immune system, related pre-existing conditions and overall general health. Research is also emerging that blood type may be a factor, with type A individuals having a 50% greater risk of serious complications of Covid-19.
In addition to your DNA, nutrition and lifestyle are also important personal risk factors. Dr. Cate Shanahan, a family physician and an expert in diet-driven metabolic disease, believes diet has a major role in how your body reacts to Covid-19. In addition to not getting enough exercise, Dr. Shanahan believes many have diets are too packed with simple sugars, simple carbs and not enough fiber, fruits and vegetables lowering the body’s ability to fight disease. Dr. Shanahan also believes that the continued ingestion of seed based oils (e.g. Sunflower, Canola, Cottonseed, etc..) have a direct correlation to your body’s ability to fight the coronavirus.
Whether you believe DNA or diet are risk factors in catching Covid-19, the bottom line is that the post pandemic travel recovery should include an evaluation of individual traveler’s risk. This is particularly important for the business travel sector where the need for travel has to be weighed against the personal risk of the individual. The CD guidelines are a beginning, but if you include blood type, and lifestyle profile it may turn out that the 60’s something healthy baby boomer (though age is always a negative factor) may be at less risk than their less healthy 30 something co-worker who lives on a diet of fast food and sugar.
These issues raise new concerns over health, freedom, and privacy. Many may read this and conclude; it is none of your business what I eat or how much I exercise. This personal liberty argument may be fueled further by the need to collect health data as part of the permanent change in the travel process post Covid-19. The reality is that we all have the personal freedom to decide on whether to travel for leisure despite your medical condition or lifestyle. When the corporation pays, things are different. Now is the time for companies to conduct detailed analysis of their top travelers and assign a risk score based on both measurable factors such as Covid test results, proof of Covid-19 antibodies and blood type, but also less precise measures reflecting the travelers general health and lifestyle. Maybe this is a wake up call for all us to lead more healthy lives!