We work with many business, corporate, and executive-level travelers as well as their HR departments (or whoever in the company is responsible for coordinating international travel, including international travel security). Here’s a question that we encounter frequently: isn’t it “safer” to travel to a city in a developed country like the United Kingdom or Germany vs. a city in a developing country like Mexico, Saudi Arabia, or China?

International Business Travelers and Security

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Indeed, do we even “need” security or employee travel security services if our executives are on their way to Rome, and not Jakarta? Sometimes this issue is stated explicitly, and other times people may feel this way, implicitly, or even be unaware of various double standards with respect to international travel security for business travelers, whether this is the travel security of regular employees or the travel security of executives and VIPs.

With that in mind, here are some points of interest with respect to international travel security for various destinations. The most important thing to understand is that travel security should become a corporate priority wherever employees are traveling, and that basic security procedures are a “good thing” regardless of whether the destination is Moscow or Helsinki, Beijing or Tokyo, Buenos Aires or Mexico City.

Security-related Points of Concern

These are the main security-related points we are concerned with (both with companies and individual travelers):

  • What is the risk at various destinations?
  • How do we lower the risk & raise awareness?
  • Where are our employees/travelers?
  • How do we contact them?
  • How do we advise them of an actual or emerging threat?
  • How do we know whether they are safe after a major incident?
  • How to we provide advice or deal with an issue, incident or emergency?

We often hear that comment about US/overseas comparisons. But the reason why people in Chicago feel reasonably safe is that they have subconsciously become more aware of their surroundings, know the issues and, without thinking, know how to avoid them and maintain their safety. We hear the same story overseas, but when people live in a certain country/city they adapt (and even then, in some cases don’t see the risk.)

Safe ‘At Home’ Doesn’t Mean Safe ‘Abroad’

The increased risk for travelers overseas is that they are generally not aware of the issues and their possible ramifications for traveler safety. Being aware of one’s surrounding (and sudden changes in them) is just as important in the US, but in overseas environments this skill needs to be varied to take account of possibly unknown warning signs, interpret cultural differences, and know that their expectations for routine and emergency support will differ. Statistically, a comparison between cities’ crime rates will be accurate, but knowing the likelihood of becoming involved in crime and the possible outcomes can differ dramatically, as can the treatment for an injury or medical emergency.

In terms of the possibly of inadvertently becoming involved in situation beyond the traveler’s control (e.g., cartel checkpoints, not infrequent gunfight crossfire in populated areas using military-grade weapons, etc.), no comparison exists with Paris or Barcelona. For example, a recent gunfight involving a number vehicles/personnel and hundreds of rounds of ammunition resulted in the death of cartel members/federal agents and, as a largely unnoticed side issue, multiple bullet damage to parked US student vehicles across the river…

In terms of the possible threat against the individual tourist or traveler, this is considered low, since such action is generally to no-one’s advantage, unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., involvement in crime, etc.) As mentioned, being in the wrong place at the wrong time is an important factor, such a minimizing risk by keeping off the roads in many locations, being back to hotels before sundown, being aware of specific threats (poisoning at nightclubs, etc.) and so on.

Take Government Warnings: Seriously

I think US government warnings should of course be taken seriously and act as a precursor to raising awareness and to gather more information specific to a destination. For example, in regard to country evacuations, there may be multiple indicators — except in the event of a coup that no one foresaw, natural disaster, etc. — that an early departure may be advisable. Sometimes such specific government warnings may be delayed for one reason or another, thus impacting a timely departure.

Reach out for a Consultation

The security situation of any company or business traveler is unique. For this reason, the experts at IMG GlobalSecur are happy to work with you on an independent travel security audit. With the services provided we can a) analyze the security risks, b) prepare detailed recommendations and a travel security plan, c) connect you with the GlobalSecur ‘backend’ to bolster information, and d) provide access to FoneTrac, our travel safety app for both iPhone and Android that leverages digital technology for two-way communications. Contact us today.


Photo credit: Foter.com