When top-level executives with high-risk profiles need to travel to areas of the world known to pose specific threats, they should consider consulting executive protection professionals before they depart. Those with strictly government or military backgrounds may provide some guidance, but the personnel protection experts in the federal government reside primarily in the U.S. Secret Service and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The Department of Justice, the Department of Defense and other government departments have limited personnel protection details, so professionals from these backgrounds may have limited experience in this area.
We instead recommend consultation with a professional protection agency or a corporate security professional with personnel protection training and certification. Unfortunately, the majority of business travelers do not have the budget or the corporate support to seek that kind of assistance.
>Keep It Low Key
Unless you are a senior executive with a corporate security staff to plan the security for your travel and possibly accompany you on overseas visits, or unless you have the funds to hire professional consultants, you must do your own protection planning and provide for your own in-country security. The good news is, if you don’t meet those criteria, you are a less likely target for the professional kidnapper, terrorist or spy.
Always remember that inherent dangers from criminal elements are present in every large city in the world, including those in the United States. Therefore most of the commonsense security measures you should take while traveling domestically should apply to foreign cities as well.
There are, however, some unique issues you should consider when traveling abroad.
Obviously, some foreign cities pose a greater threat to your personal safety and security than others. For example, kidnapping seems to be one of the most common threats to U.S. executives in South and Central American countries. The FBI maintains a cadre of Spanish-speaking agents who are trained in hostage negotiations.
Although you may be at low risk from professional kidnappers, you may be vulnerable to an express kidnapping. An express kidnapping is one that involves a target of opportunity with little preparation and planning on the part of the criminal. You can avoid being that target of opportunity by not blatantly advertising your wealth or importance in your dress and demeanor. For example, do not use titles or provide business cards at hotels. Do not wear flashy clothes or jewelry. Do not drive expensive cars or travel with an entourage that draws attention. It is, however, a good idea to travel with a companion whenever feasible.
Resources for Travel Abroad
The following Web sites give updated warnings on specific countries and provide excellent security and travel tips. Visit them, take notes and contact information, and study the tips that they provide.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) maintains one of the most comprehensive publicly available sites at www.ds-osac.org. OSAC is an excellent source of current information and educational resources specifically designed for the international business traveler. It is a private/public sector effort supported by the State Department and other government agencies. If you or members of your organization travel overseas frequently, I suggest subscribing to their newsletter. Before traveling abroad, take the time to read “Personal Security Guidelines for the American Business Traveler Overseas,” which is found in the online OSAC Resource Library.
The U.S. Department of State provides general travel information and travel tips at http://travel.state.gov. The site’s Travel Warnings link provides current travel warnings, and its Consular Information Sheets, linked from the main page, also provide important information.