Since this time last year we have published 145 Trending Topics posts, and kept up our bi-weekly ICYMI posts to monitor the world and raise up concerns, challenges and issues that mobility programs must effectively navigate. One year ago, we were feeling like we were getting to a good, and maybe better place than we had been for quite some time. In fact, on November 4, 2021 I had the gall to be optimistic and ask "ICYMI: Is it too soon to say we can see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel?" I guess we know the answer to that was "yes, it was too soon", because at the end of that same month, just after Thanksgiving, we posted "ICYMI - Omicron enters the scene and drastically changes the global travel landscape". From there, things shut down and it felt like we were back at the starting point.
Today, in the home stretch of 2022, how are you feeling? A year ago, two-thirds of CEOs were saying they expected “very strong” or “strong” growth in the coming 12 months. Today, economists predict a recession lies ahead that will impact the next 6-18 months. Many companies are looking at layoffs. This time last year we were concerned with increasing moving costs (relo-flation), the ability to find and keep talent, where mortgage rates were heading, the car crunch, and re-entry anxiety. Most of those concerns are still present in mobility today.
There is a lot happening this week and a lot has definitely happened over the last two weeks. Between Elon Musk, elections, and wars, there is no shortage of newsworthy events taking place. Let's take a look around to consider a few things that are impacting global mobility programs right now.
- Taiwan: Per Euronews.travel, the country has fully re-opened to foreign tourists after more than two years of strict COVID-19 border restrictions. Visitors to the self-ruled island are no longer required to quarantine upon entry, or required to take any tests. Previously, arrivals had to quarantine in hotels for three days, followed by four days of self-monitoring. However, visitors will still need to test negative on a rapid antigen test on arrival and monitor their health for a week.
- China: Late last week, China made some big overhauls on its tough zero-Covid rules by easing quarantines and flight bans. Travelers into China will be required to spend 5 days in a hotel (as opposed to 7) or a government quarantine facility, followed by 3 days confined to home. Some other adjustments were the end of a flight-suspension system and reducing mass testing and contact tracing. Several Chinese cities began cutting routine community COVID-19 testing this past Monday. While some see this as a major recalibration of the strict zero-Covid policy, others are skeptical how the country will handle the highest number of cases in the last six months. Some Beijing schools have closed due to a spike in cases there, and in Guangzhou there was a recent lockdown of more than 5 million residents due to an outbreak. For a full overview on the country, check out this report from China Briefing.
- Canada: Per Worldwide ERC and CERC, the two-year moratorium Canada has enacted on home purchases by foreign buyers goes into effect on 1 January 2023. This is an attempt to tamp down Canada's blazing hot real estate market by cooling off foreign home buyers. The Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act will prevent direct and indirect purchases of residential real estate by individuals who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, foreign corporations, and others deemed to be “non-Canadian.” One of several CERC’s concerns is that these proposed restrictions will deter the brightest and the best from immigrating to Canada and hurt this country’s competitive position in the war for talent. The proposal also creates tension with the open immigration environment Canada has strived to build over the past few years. This would impact companies moving people in and out of Canada, including RMC's. CERC has submitted their formal position to CMHC and Department of Finance officials to create a number of exceptions as "Relocation Management Companies are not speculative investors in the Canadian residential property market. These companies are providing much needed and valuable services that contribute to the Canadian economy by facilitating the movement of talent." Some good info is also shared here by Pace Immigration.
- Qatar: The World Cup starts Nov 20 and runs through Dec 18 and Crisis24 advises to expect extensive security measures and local transport disruptions. In addition, FIFA 2022 World Cup organizers have warned that while fans and players from all races, gender, and sexual orientations are welcome, foreigners need to abide by local customs, including dress codes and public displays of affection. LGBTQ+ football players and fans could also experience public harassment, as homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
- UK: Per Crisis24, unionized ground staff at London Heathrow Airport, UK, plan to strike Nov. 18-21. Airport and flight disruptions are likely during this period. Union organizers state the action will primarily impact operations at terminals 2, 3, and 4, and flights operated by Qatar Airways (QR), Virgin Atlantic (VS), Singapore Airlines (SQ), Cathay-Pacific (CX), and Emirates (EK).
- United States: Mobile employees with flights over the holidays in the U.S. should add time to their journey to deal with security. Per CNN, the TSA is ramping up security measures at airports nationwide after admitting to multiple protocol failures that allowed a man to get through a checkpoint with two box cutters. The move comes as passengers are expected to flood airports ahead of Thanksgiving.
- Global: A staggering fact about container shipping: Between 2020 and 2023, container shipping groups will have made as much money as they did in the previous 60-years put together. But here's some good news for mobility programs related to costs. After climbing to record heights, ocean freight rates have started to come down in the past couple months, and seem set to fall further next year. Looking for an explanation on why container rates are falling and the outlook? Try this video from McKinsey. Ultimately, new, larger ships, automation, better integration of land and sea logistics and a drop in demand will all benefit mobility programs.
There you go. What did we miss? I can't help but flashback to the Omicron whiplash and with a possible winter surge looming, the COVID-19 pandemic will be considered a U.S. public-health emergency at least a little longer. Heading into the holidays, are you feeling like it is time to buckle up for a crazy ride or will 2022 quit quietly?
Taiwan has fully re-opened to foreign tourists after more than two years of strict COVID-19 border restrictions. Visitors to the self-ruled island are no longer required to quarantine upon entry, or to take any PCR tests. Instead, they will need to test negative on a rapid antigen test on arrival, and monitor their health for a week.