Essential reading if you are planning a business trip overseas
International Business Travel in Turbulent Times
Many commercial opportunities exist overseas that simply cannot be replicated at home, making business travel essential. With these opportunities come inherent risks and in the following paragraphs I will summarise how I believe they may be mitigated.
This advice assumes that the traveller will be alone and doesn’t enjoy the support of a corporate travel or security team, who will usually undertake many of the tasks on their behalf. But remember, regardless of whether they do or not,
Your employer has a duty of care to ensure that employee travel is as safe as it possibly can be and that you are protected against avoidable risk.
Failure to do so will render your employer and individual managers and directors liable to criminal prosecution should you be killed or injured. Even if you are travelling in company and/or have the backing of corporate travel and security experts to support you, you should remain aware of the potential problems and be cautious of any situation that could pose a risk to you.
Research and Prepare: travel security questions
Firstly, consider the following questions:
Do I really need to travel? Could I achieve the desired outcome via video conferencing for example?
Am I fit and well to travel?
Discuss any medical concerns with your doctor before travelling and, if you take regular medication, ensure that you have enough for the entire duration of your trip.
Do I require innoculations before I travel? If so, how long before I travel should they be taken? Again, consult your GP or company Occupational Health dept.
Research the location that you’re travelling to. Is it a location with known security, medical or natural risks? Is there a risk of civil or military disruption or disease? Are earthquakes or typhoons a possibility?
Refer to www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for further information.
Do I know the people that I’m visiting; how will I recognise them; can they be trusted?
What equipment should I take? Avoid taking anything containing commercially or personally sensitive information, unless properly encrypted. Discuss this with your IT department.
Do I have adequate insurance and medical coverage for this trip? Certain destinations will not be covered by your businesses travel insurance unless you comply with terms imposed by your insurer before travelling.
Do I need a visa or other authority to travel to the location, and how long before I travel do I need to apply? Visa applications may take weeks in certain circumstances.
Does my passport have a sufficiently long gap before expiry to satisfy local requirements? Some countries require a minimum of 6 months remaining on your passport, on the day you are due to leave the country.
How am I going to get around when I arrive in country? Is public transport safe and reliable or should I arrange pre-booked transportation? Where possible your host or hotel should be asked to arrange ground transportation for you. Obtain the name of the driver and company who will be collecting you. This could be a public taxi, not necessarily a chauffeur car.
Is the hotel fit for purpose? What is it close to? Does it have somewhere to securely store your property?
How much cash and other forms of payment should I take? Are there restrictions on the amount of cash that can be taken into or out of the country?
What cultural or legal issues should I be aware of? Restrictions on consumption of alcohol or clothing should be considered.
Create an itinerary and ensure that you share it with your employer and family. This should include meeting locations, date and times and means of travelling between venues.
Consider what luggage you will take. Avoid using obviously expensive luggage; instead use secure but plain luggage that you can quickly identify at the baggage reclaim area. Expensive luggage may make you stand out and become a target for opportunist criminals.
Booking your trip
Use a reputable travel agency to arrange your travel and accommodation. It’s in their interest to make sure that the arrangements are well made, as their reputation and your future custom depend on it. Your host may be also able to advise you on hotels with good levels of safety and service, close to the meeting venue.
When booking your room, ask for a room between the third and sixth floor. Any higher will take longer to escape from, should the need to evacuate by stairs arise, and any lower poses an increased risk of theft and, in the worst case scenario, the effects of blast from an explosion. Where possible, choose a hotel which has good standoff from the road and an obvious investment in security. The well known, international hotel chains all employ highly qualified security experts to manage security and will have well designed and layered security to protect guests, staff and assets.
Travel security while in country
Upon your arrival, let somebody who has a copy of your tinerary know that you’re there and raise the alarm with them if you have any concerns.
Go straight to where your transportation will be waiting for you and never leave your luggage unattended, even for a moment.If a specific vehicle has been arranged, you should know the name of the driver who is collecting you and the firm that he works for. Never get into a vehicle if you have any doubts about the bona fides of the driver. If in doubt contact your host or the hotel and ask them to reconfirm the details of the driver that they’ve arranged.
Upon arrival at your hotel, make sure that you’re given the room you requested and ensure that you have the use of a safe for your valuables. Identify the emergency exits closest to your room and read the safety notices, which are usually situated behind your hotel room door.
Do not deviate from your planned itinerary, unless you’re able to inform your employer or family of any changes and the reason why.
Business travellers are sometimes the victim of serious crimes when travelling abroad, so be aware of people acting suspiciously around you. Keep away from poorly lit areas and try to stay in public view when on foot. Do not carry unnecessary cash, expensive jewellery or other valuables with you; leave them securely locked away in a hotel safe or preferably at home. If you feel vulnerable, alert a police officer, your host, your employer or hotel employee. Never confront a stranger.
In high or extreme risk locations, avoid travelling to any location that is not part of the risk assessed pre-trip itinerary. If this is unavoidable, contact your employer and/or family and inform them of the change of circumstances. Once safely back at your hotel or airport for your return flight, again let your employer and / or family know.
Lastly, if your plans change and you do not travel when originally planning on doing so, or you have to change your itinerary for some reason, make sure that you let your employer and family know. This is why. An earthquake and tsunami on Friday 11th March 2011 affected Japan; one of the world’s safest countries, with excellent transportation and safety systems. Nomura’s global headquarters is in Tokyo.
On that day our records showed that we had 59 travellers from the EMEA region in Tokyo on business trips. Upon hearing of the disaster, my team immediately set about contacting our travellers to ensure that they were well, knew what was happening and were safe. Because of problems with the communications infrastructure caused by the tremors in Tokyo and rural Japan, we initially had great difficulty in contacting and accounting for many of them. We continued in our attempts until we finally succeeded in accounting for the last person on the Sunday night, UK time.
When we reviewed the process, we found that of the 59 travellers listed, 7 had left Japan earlier than planned, 11 had cancelled or postponed their trip altogether and 2 were not staying in the accommodation that we had been advised of. That left 39 travellers for whom we had accurate information. Fortunately, none of our staff suffered any ill effects or were in any other way inconvenienced, but for over 48 hours we had our global security resources trying to account for 18 employees that weren’t even there.
Head of Corporate Security EMEA