Today's managers are expected to travel more than ever before as the business environment becomes increasingly global. However, it is also an increasingly complicated world and business travel can be a risky business. Jim Rodgers provides some basic advice for the business traveller.
With more companies establishing offices in foreign countries, the potential for managers to be required to travel internationally increases. But the ever changing political and economic conditions within many foreign countries can create an uncertain climate of risk. Company representatives that were once welcomed can, almost overnight, find themselves to be a target of animosity, a potential kidnap victim for economic gain, or a possible tool in some group's political agenda. However, with a modest expenditure of time, effort and money, the prospective traveller can be reasonably certain that the next trip can be completed safely and without unnecessary inconvenience.
Due to space limitations, this article will not deal with several important aspects of travel security, such as travelling by train or by sea, precautions on-the-street, or what to do if you become a victim of terrorist hijacking.
Following is a checklist of recommendations to enhance your travel security. This checklist is not all-inclusive. You might need to add items that specifically apply to you and the security situation where you intend to travel.
Contact sources to acquire the latest travel advisories for your destinations and areas through which you will be travelling. You will want to know about such things as:
• Political unrest.
• Terrorism and crime.
• Health warnings.
• Special events (especially those with political or nationalistic significance).
• Airlines at risk due to Y2K compliance. The US State Department has published a report on the state of Y2K readiness of 196 countries. Some of the countries deemed at significant risk include Nigeria, Pakistan, Ukraine, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, Russia, and Brazil. A complete report on 196 countries can be found on the internet at http://travel.state.gov.
• Plan non-stop flights whenever possible. If not available, try to take the most direct route.
• Choose air carriers from countries with which major terrorist groups have no serious grievances.
• Make reservations without titles or company name.
• Avoid going to major airline offices, which are occasional targets. Instead, make reservations through your travel agency, by phone, internet, or hotel services.
• Maintain a low profile.
• Dress casually whenever possible.
• Avoid obviously expensive clothing and clothing with national logos.
• Don't take jewellery and watches that you can't afford to lose.
• Use lockable, hard-sided, nondescript luggage.
• Do not use luggage tags that expose your name and address. Use closed-faced tags.
• Place identification both inside and outside each bag.
• Check your homeowner's insurance to determine what coverage it provides while you are travelling or staying in a hotel.
• Plan to use traveller's cheques as much as possible. They can be replaced. Cash can't.
• Limit the amount of cash in your possession at any one time.
• Leave credit cards at home that you don't intend to use.
Information and records
• Share your detailed itinerary only with family and trusted associates. Keep them informed of any changes.
• Make two photocopies of the personal description pages of your passport, driver's licence, and record a listing of all credit cards you plan to take. Put one copy in your luggage; leave one copy with someone you trust.
• After arrival, place your passport, extra credit cards, and other valuables in the hotel safe deposit box; carry the photocopies with you.
• Record the address and telephone number of the nearest embassy or consulate, including after-hours telephone numbers.
Careful about carry-on items
Think about what you take. Is there anything that might create problems? For example:
• Professional or religious affiliations.
• Books by dissident authors.
• Certain political materials.
• Pornography or sexually oriented literature.
• Personal financial statements.
• Pocketknives or other items that could be viewed as weapons.
At the airport
• Avoid spending extra time at the airport.
• Say your goodbyes at kerbside if someone is dropping you off.
• Process through the security screening point as soon as possible.
• Minimise time spent in public, non-secured areas.
• Wait in departure lounge at gate unless your travel is to a “controversial” destination. In that case, sit in a nearby departure area until boarding time.
• Stay away from windows or other large expanses of glass.
• Try not to be the first or the last in customs or immigration lines.
• Be cautious and respectful with customs and other officials. Avoid jocularity that might be misunderstood.
• Discourage the use of “meeter and greeter” signs for recognition unless the name is disguised.
• If possible, have someone meet you who is familiar with the city meet you at the airport and accompany you to your lodging.
• If you are met by someone you don't know, arrange ahead of time how you'll recognise each other.
Travelling by car
Hotel transportation services
• Use them whenever they are available.
• Beware of “friendly” offers of transportation from strangers.
• Use only marked and licensed cabs.
• “Gypsy” cabs are often unreliable and can even be set ups.
• Always hail your own taxi. Do not allow doormen or others to hail one for you. Be certain that your taxi has been randomly selected and that the driver's posted identification matches him or her.
• Select one that blends in with other cars in the area.
• Inspect for prior damage, spare tyre, jack.
• Use well-travelled streets.
• Avoid stopping in isolated areas.
• Look into the vehicle before you enter.
• Lock your doors and keep your windows within two inches of closing while driving.
• Keep your gas tank at least half full
• Be sceptical of roadblocks, apparent accidents, and motorists in distress.
• If you think you are being followed, it does not mean that you are about to be attacked.
• Deviate from your planned itinerary.
• If you can, record the make, model, and licence number of the car.
If surveillance is confirmed
• Do not complete your trip.
• Do not go to your actual or temporary residence.
• Do not stop.
• Drive to a safe place - preferably a police station.
• Stay at busy hotels and avoid out-of-the-way accommodations.
• Stick with major hotels, especially those part of major international chains.
• Stay away from “luxury” hotels.
• Ask for a room on the second through seventh floors.
• High enough to avoid most burglars and security problems.
• Low enough for escape in the event of a fire or other emergency.
• Easier for fire apparatus to reach.
• Do not loiter or discuss your plans in hotel lobbies or other public areas.
• Do not meet strangers in your hotel room.
• Do not give out your room number or address casually.
• Use all auxiliary locking devices on doors and windows.
• Once you are safely in your room, unpack and place your belongings in the closet or dresser. Lock and stow empty luggage so that they can't be used to carry your property out of the room.
• Ask about emergency procedures when you check in. Some major hotels have brochures describing their emergency plans.
• Know where the nearest fire escape, stairs, and elevators are and the most direct route from your room.
• Count the doors from your room to the exit door.
Windows in the room
• Check to see if they open fully.
• Learn how the latches work.
• Observe what is outside the window and what can be seen from observation areas of your room window.
• Leave a radio or TV on at low volume.
• Do not leave your key at the desk.
• Be careful about leaving sensitive information in your room.
• Consider what you are throwing in the wastebasket - itinerary, home or business addresses, financial information, credit card receipts, etc.
• If there is a peephole, use it to identify anyone requesting entry before opening the door.
• Check identification; call the front desk for visitor verification before admitting anyone who claims to be hotel staff or ask them to come back later. Check them out with hotel staff.
• Refuse to accept unexpected packages.
• Increase your awareness; pay attention.
• Lower your profile.
• Be alert to potential hazards.
• Exercise caution with strangers. Avoid giving out personal or professional information. Be leery of inquiries that appear to be excessively detailed.
• Know what to do and where to go in emergencies.
• Be sure that your staff/family members know their responsibilities in maintaining your low profile.
• If your stay is prolonged, register with your nearest embassy or consulate. Be sure to update this information if it changes.
Jim Rodgers, AMSEC International.