30 March 2020

Dispatches from the Pandemic: an interview with Emanuele Scansani

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on our lives as well as on international travel. We spoke with our Director of Partnerships & Strategic Relations, Emanuele Scansani, about what is his personal experience and what are his thoughts for the future of the travel industry.


Hello everyone, my name is Suzanne Sangiovese and I am the Commercial and Communications Director at Riskline, a travel risk intelligence company. Riskline has more than a decade of experience working remotely as a geographically-distributed team and today, we operate in more than 12 countries and across nine different time zones. With our global team we thought we'd try something new and take a deeper look at local perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic. This morning I'm speaking with Emanuele Scansani, the Director of Partnerships & Strategic Relations at Riskline. Emanuele has a unique perspective on the current pandemic as he is an Italian national living in Spain with his Chinese wife and young daughter.

Suzanne: First of all, Emanuele, how are you and your family doing right now? What's the situation like for you in Spain?

Emanuele: Hi Suzanne. We are fine for now but clearly we are all very worried, as it’s to be expected.

In our case, the coronavirus outbreak has been a concern for us since mid January as my wife is Chinese and has family back there. I, on the other hand, have family in northern Italy. And we are living in Barcelona - so directly or indirectly we have been affected by the outbreak for longer than most other people.

As for Spain, the situation is currently pretty bad, with the Madrid area and Catalonia being the worst affected areas. The number of infections and deaths keep growing at a very high rate every day. Very harsh measures were introduced two weeks ago and there’s now hope to see some effect on the infection curve soon.

You have family in Italy. How do things compare between the situation there and in Spain?

In northern Italy things are even worse than in Spain - we all know the very sad figures coming from there every day. It's Italy's most difficult time since World War Two. I guess one main difference is that Italy - the first European country to be violently affected - has introduced lockdown measures step by step whereas the Spanish government has introduced a very hard lockdown almost overnight. Compliance with the measure has also been an issue but sanctions from police forces have become much stricter.

We've recently seen some hopeful news coming from China that life may, albeit very slowly, getting back to normal. What's reality like right now in Hubei and elsewhere in the country?

China is a very big country, so there will be many differences depending on the province or city we are looking at. In general, figures released from authorities there are hard to believe, although the very limited relaxation of lockdown measures in Hubei is a fact. I suspect it will take much longer for life to go back to normal, whether in China or in Europe. And we can't assume that life will be the same after the pandemic.

Emanuele, what lessons do you think the travel industry will learn from this? And, will travel change?

The travel industry is facing something unprecedented, although we are all very much looking forward to traveling again.

The main lesson to be learned is that many companies could have anticipated what has happened if they had relied on travel risk intelligence rather than government advisories or WHO announcements. At Riskline we were able to predict what has happened in China and elsewhere with good accuracy: for example, by the 1st of January we were already reporting to our travellers new mysterious cases of pneumonia in Wuhan!

This goes all back to Duty of Care: companies have a moral and legal duty to protect their travellers, but until very recently some companies were still willing to minimise the importance of DoC…. or they were willing to try to save money by sending their travellers around the world without the right travel risk intelligence. The COVID-19 pandemic will make indisputable the need for a strong duty of care offering centered around travel intelligence: no company will dare to object to its essential role anymore.

Resuming travel, once things will stabilise worldwide, will require from the beginning a travel risk management programme for every company, regardless of the size or industry.

What coping strategies are you implementing at home to deal with this unprecedented situation?

We are lucky enough to have a dog which we can walk outside, and it’s a great company. We are also lucky to have a small garden which provides a great pastime, especially at weekends.

But most importantly, we are lucky that we - and our beloved ones - are safe and in health for now.

Lucky indeed. Thanks so much for your time today Emanuele.

Thanks Suzanne. Stay safe and healthy!