Employee travel security may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re planning a business trip, but it’s an important consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked. In our exclusive interview with Craig Carter, Vice-President of Strategic Development, K’Alma Spa Concepts & Management, we talk about safety while away from home. In addition to employee travel security apps like FoneTrac, there’s a lot each person can do – attitude, relationships with others etc – to promote a safe travel environment.
“What we think about and what we focus on is what we put out into the world.” Those words, strategically applied, can change everything, according to Craig Carter, the founder and developer of CIPHER Methodology. CIPHER, as Carter explains it, empowers clients to exceed limitations, and it can help travelers in any industry elevate their experience…particularly when it comes to travel safety.
A frequent traveler for his company, which manages international luxury hotel spas, Carter explains, “Wherever I go, I act like I belong. People don’t question me. If you apply that to your life, when you’re traveling, it changes everything.”
Tell us a little bit about CIPHER.
Particularly for clients in the Hospitality industry, the customer experience is significant. It’s what drives good reviews, repeat business and growth. The principle behind CIPHER is this: Connect. Interrupt patterns to influence Performance. Have an Experience that drives a Result.
That’s how I get my clients exceeding their limitations…changing the entire experience, the one that starts with each connection.
That sounds like a great idea for businesses. But how does that apply to travelers?
Going back to creating a connection…we have the ability to do that wherever we go. Those connections when you go to a foreign city, for example, can be the difference between you wandering around on the streets or behaving as if you belong there. You are in control of one thing, and that’s yourself. How you present yourself to the world creates positive experiences for others, and that’s how you can get anything you want.
So practically speaking, how do we do that?
Start by humanizing yourself to strangers if you want to create a positive experience. If you are traveling in a foreign country, go up to someone in your hotel, on the street, at a business…create a connection first. Shake hands, make eye contact, share an experience, try to speak their language…do that before you ask them for directions. Instead of focusing on the thing you need- directions to a hotel, a restaurant, a taxi…focus on the people in front of you in the moment and consider them as part of your experience.
An example: I was traveling in Rome a few years ago with my wife and one of my kids. I don’t speak Italian, but I learned a few basic phrases. Whenever we would go into our hotel or a restaurant I would try to speak those phrases, however poorly, with a lot of enthusiasm. I even learned how to say “I don’t speak Italian” in Italian, which made the whole thing even funnier. And you know what? Wherever I tried to interact with the people around me, my enthusiasm was obvious. People would laugh, shake my hand, hug me for trying…and we got treated really, really well everywhere we went. One connection led to another…that’s what takes you from tourist to traveler to guest.
So you’re saying that we have the ability to shape our own experiences…even down to the kind of service we receive?
Absolutely. What we think and what we focus on is what we put out into the world. If you’re focused on the negative, like “I hate airports, I hate standing in line, I am tired of staying in hotels,” that’s the energy you radiate and present to those around you. That shapes your whole experience. When you present yourself positively- in the same airport, same hotel- can change the entire nature of the experience. Even your body language and facial expressions when you’re in the wrong state of mind can have a strong impact on the reception you get. Think about the person in line in front of you who is complaining his way through the wait. He or she demonstrates impatience and irritability…which makes its way up to the reception desk and the people behind it. Wouldn’t you rather be known as the guest who is always nice and kind?
We do a lot of work around travel safety…how does that factor into the experience?
Most people see “us and them” when they travel, and particularly with hospitality staff, there is a mindset that they are there to serve us. You find the commonalities…notice them, remark on them…and there’s the connection you can make. THEY have the same issues and problems that we do globally, and people sometimes forget that. Did you forget your contact lens solution? Find someone who wears glasses who might related to you, ask for help with little things…and if you end up with a larger emergency, they already know and want to help you.
Those connections can also help you navigate cities with the benefit of “insider” viewpoint. Once I make some connections, I will ask for recommendations, places to go, even any places to avoid. So when I go somewhere, I’ve got a sense of where I am and I’m more confident in my movements. In Venice, for example, where there is a heavy tourist population, my approach made me less of a target. If you move with a sense of purpose, whatever space you are in, and stay mindful of what’s around, you give off the impression that you “own” whatever space you’re in. That commands respect, especially when you make eye contact, smile…make the effort to treat everyone with kindness and respect.
Is it possible to connect solo with people and still keep yourself safe?
Absolutely. For men traveling alone, it can be easier…but really, for any solo travelers, I recommend they start by dining in the hotel restaurant. You can establish some great rapport there, whether it’s with the host, bartender or your server. When you check into that hotel, don’t be someone who just walks from the front desk to your room with your suitcase and make that your hotel experience. And if you want to go outside and explore the city, let your hotel connections help you do that. Meet the staff, make friends with people you come into contact with. Learn their names and their backgrounds, then ask them for some great places to go. If you’re staying at a hotel with a concierge, tell the concierge you’re traveling alone…that can be especially helpful for women. Ask them to make that reservation for you and you’ll probably get treated better than if you walked in off the street.
A lot of concierges would say they have the keys to the city. It’s true. They can unlock those doors for you. They have established relationships and they choose their vendors carefully. They get paid, yes, but their vendors will take great care of their guests. That’s what keeps those referrals coming. So wherever you travel, and there’s a concierge…that connection can be invaluable. Tip them, thank them for taking care of you… and you’ll get remembered and taken care of again. If you’re worried about safety and not knowing what businesses to trust, leverage of the services available through your hotel.
What advice do you have for people who are business travelers, or stay at chain hotels that don’t have a concierge?
You don’t have to stay at a luxury hotel to have that kind of an experience. There is a difference between tourists and travelers, and particularly for business travelers. That’s where making connections and building relationships with hotel staff can be valuable. If you stay at the same hotel each time you’re in a city and you tell them you’re coming back into town, they remember you because you created that connection and you’re not just a guest…you become “their” guest.
Have you always had great experiences, or do you have any Ugly American stories to share with us?
OK…yes. So I was in Paris back in the ‘90s and had rented an apartment through a vacation rental site. There was no Airbnb or fancy GPS technology back then, and I didn’t speak any French. The cab driver couldn’t find the rental address I gave him. I also couldn’t call the owner because he didn’t have a calling card, anyone remember those? It was so bad, I couldn’t even figure out how to order a meal…needless to say, all of this really impressed my wife. We didn’t know anything about the culture, and I’ll leave it at, it was not a very good experience. Fast forward to a few years later. We were at a fundraiser in Chicago and won First-class trip for two to the Four Seasons…in Paris. We went back to try it again. First minutes there, after that extremely long flight, we were in the lobby of the Four Seasons finding out that it was too early for us to check in. The concierge was very sympathetic when I sought him out and explained that my wife was very unhappy. Right away he was helpful…I tipped him well but also thanked him profusely for saving me from the doghouse. That sympathetic concierge ended up ensuring we had a totally different and much improved experience than our first time in his city.
Any final thoughts or advice for our travelers?
Travel is all about the experience, whether you’re there for work or pleasure. If you look at life as one big journey and keep yourself open, it can be exciting, fun, an opportunity to meet someone new and try something different. Your state of mind going into that trip really matters.
Make your hotel your home while you travel. Treat the staff like family rather than staff, and they will not be on autopilot with you. Acknowledge them, comment on what both of you might observe…say things like “I really appreciate you,” or “I saw how those people treated you, and I want you to know not all guests are like that person.” Sincere, authentic compliments- because let’s face it, they have hard jobs- can make their day. When you see them over and over again they will be looking out for you…not just for your comfort, but your safety as well, because you’ve invested them in your travel experience.
GlobalSecur Employee Travel Security Solutions
IMG GlobalSecur has decades of experience in the security industry. Our team of safety experts stands ready to help you alleviate travel fears with our executive travel security expertise, employee travel security advice, employee medical assistance and our FoneTrac safety app backed with 24/7 on-call security professionals ready to assist your needs. Contact us today!