The Future of Global Mobility

The earliest versions of the globalization concept saw nations intermingling across a diverse grid of life and business domains; and even an archaic definition of this demanded a form of travel and communication. Time lapsing to today, those theories were on point; communication and international travel became defining components to globalization—a breakthrough for business. In return, internationally-practiced business became a crucial gear in the global economic machine, and it relied heavily on the constantly-progressing global mobility sector. Aviation, trains and water travel stepped up with technology, and corporations reaped benefits from each sector differently. Today, however, we continue to face a challenge that, at some point, suggested that globalization is over—COVID-19 threatened business internationally and left millions asking what was next.

Global mobility reports revealed that no country is on its way to achieve sustainability within the transportation sector. Environmentalists saw the COVID-19 lockdowns as a great opportunity to have the conversation on environmentally-friendly business. The one conclusion almost all parties are unanimous on is that the world after COVID-19 will not be the same, and this includes global mobility. The decision to reopen airports will have to be very slowly made and very precisely calculated, as at this point, the world is trying to mitigate a second Coronavirus wave. This tells us that today, we are looking at six to twelve months of slow travel activity, limited to essential work. Business and activism might be good examples of this. However, this means that tourism, sports and entertainment are going to suffer as a result. Countries that rely heavily on such activities will have to pump more efforts in other sectors in order to make up for the financial damage, and a clear and strong move towards digital entertainment is already underway. 

The rising numbers of Coronavirus infections affected sea navigation, a form of transportation of goods that is a key component in global supply chains. New regulations were globally enforced and protective hygienic practices were spread among workers whose working schedules expanded in order to reduce risk. Imports by sea are important to a multitude of businesses worldwide, and with many ports closing, a possibly long lasting, slow season is starting to shape up. 

For aviation, the stakes are much higher and so are the losses. India’s aviation sectort is expecting a loss of up to $3.6 billion in June. This is due to the fact that aviation is the number one tool for international travel; it covers sectors from business to tourism and entertainment. Suspension of operations began in late March, and the lift on those is going to depend for a long time in the future on individual country policies and travel constriction and ban lists will likely be a part of the next 12 months. 

For now, governments provided extensions for several visas and residencies, as the whole world was essentially paused. Countries including Saudi Arabia flew out their expats who wished to return to their countries of origin, and brought over their nationals who got stuck abroad during lockdown. Countries in the GCC region took effective initiatives to relieve the private sector, but as far as employment goes, for now, all work is conducted remotely. The immediate impact on the corporate immigration value chain has been significant. Firms that offered corporate immigration service exclusively have been gravely affected. However, the long term effects will only become clear once the curfews and basic lockdowns are lifted. There will be an initial flurry of activity as clients will look to distribute and re-deploy resources based on the post COVID-19 business scenario. Given that, companies need to work with their clients to project demand needs beyond this period and allocate internal assets accordingly. In addition, the regulatory environment will undergo quite a few changes. Each jurisdiction has been taking measures and initiatives to reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 by easing or modifying existing regulations. Companies will need to be vigilant of these regulatory changes and reversions to perhaps the originals as well.