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Which Cities Are Equipped to Lead in the New Normal?

Source: Oliver Wyman Forum

Singapore once again tops Oliver Wyman’s 2020 Urban Mobility Readiness Index. This sovereign island city-state in Southeast Asia invested in one of the world’s first automated rail systems as a leader in forward-looking traffic management. 

European cities also dominate the index’s top 10, as most have easily accessible, highly sanitized and safe transportation. These qualities make these cities more resilient to handle future disruptions, like the pandemic. Oliver Wyman based its city ranking this year on infrastructure, innovation and focus on preparedness. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to consider relocating as many jobs turned into permanently remote roles. Oliver Wyman found that for cities to flourish in the post-COVID world, they will need a holistic and forward-looking mobility plan. “Many cities around the world were at a tipping point, even before COVID and while we won’t know the true impact on cities yet, the cities that ranked high are in a better position to meet future challenges,” said Guillaume Thibault, one of the creators of the index.

Dangerous Air Quality: 5 Asian Countries That Surpass the WHO’s Limit

Source: World Bank

Five Central Asian countries far exceed the WHO’s recommended exposure to air pollution — 10 micograms per cubic meter on average each year. Bishkek, in the Kyrgyz Republic, recorded the highest level of pollution in the world last year. 

At an international level, the cost associated with the damage to health, driven by poor air quality, is estimated to be $5.7 trillion — around 4.8% of global GDP. Asia accounts for 53% of global emissions, ranking as the largest contributor to global emissions. With immediate action, Central Asia could contribute to GHG emissions reductions goals by 2030 while simultaneously improving people’s health and achieving billions in economic gains.

The World Bank identifies five actions that Central Asia could take for more sustainable air quality, including improving the precision of air quality monitoring, as well as investing in cleaner fuels and technologies. The World Bank also recommends overhauling industry permits and offering incentives to encourage behavior change. All actions would “require a formal commitment from governments, financial investments, capacity building, and the deployment of new technology.”

Vaccine Hesitancy Is Highest in the US and Russia

Source: Morning Consult

The Russian population has the highest percentage of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy — at 29% — compared to the 14 additional countries surveyed. Experts believe that skepticism specific to this country’s population comes from the relationship between the Russian government and the public. The United States ranks second in vaccine hesitancy at nearly 20%, according to the Morning Consult. 

Concerns over potential side effects and whether the approval process was rushed through clinical trials are the two main drivers for vaccine skepticism across the world. Income, race and education levels also seem to impact the decision-making process. Compared to mid-April, however, the share of vaccine skeptics dropped by an average of 10 points in the 15 countries surveyed. 

Some countries, including Russia and the U.S., recently announced vaccine-related incentive programs, such as lotteries and other cash prizes. U.S. public officials are already seeing positive results from these programs, yet experts warned that this method may not bring reassurance to those with safety concerns around the vaccine. Instead, the World Economic Forum suggests that local leaders to prioritize reaching out and educating the public on misinformation circulating around COVID-19 vaccine risks.

Confidence in Mass Gatherings Remains the Lowest in Japan

Source: World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey

More than three-quarters of the respondents surveyed in nine countries plan to continue socially distancing themselves in public areas despite being fully vaccinated. Findings also show that the majority are also going to continue wearing masks in public areas. As the Delta variant spreads rapidly throughout the world, hospitalization rates are rising, and the WHO is urging fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks in public spaces.

Of the countries surveyed, Japan responded with the lowest level of comfort in terms of attending large gatherings. But this Friday, the Summer Olympics will begin in Japan, where over 11,000 international athletes are expected to compete. The majority of the Japanese public would like the Games to be either cancelled or postponed again in fear of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. The government announced that a state of emergency in Tokyo will run throughout the Games to combat the virus, and athletes will have to follow a long list of rules while they’re in the country. 

Rebuilding Trust Is Key to Business Travel Recovery

Source: Morning Consult

Business travelers represent only 10% of total airline travelers but up to 75% of airline revenue — and roughly one-third of business travelers are not planning any trips for the remainder of the year, according to a Morning Consult survey. Meanwhile, most of those planning to travel for business in 2021 only have one or two trips scheduled.

Trust in brands plays a key role in how business travelers approach the industry. Over 60% of business travelers say trust determines which company they travel with compared to 57% of the general public. Similar to other travelers, business travelers value brands that are reliable, have good customer service and hold a high safety record. However, business travelers also assess trust based on a brand’s commitment to sustainability, how long it has existed and whether it earned the recommendation of a trusted individual. 

COVID-19 brought an unprecedented halt to the travel industry last year, but with vaccine rollout,  domestic leisure travel returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. Although the disruption in business travel isn’t expected to fully reverse anytime soon, rebuilding trust has a clear role to play in accelerating industry recovery.

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