The 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, resulted in the deaths and injuries of travelers from many nations including Great Britain, the United States, Australia, Japan and others.
Similarly, events such as earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, and the 2010 Iceland volcano eruption, disrupted international travel and business operations.
As the business world becomes increasingly global, executives traveling internationally to forge new relationships are finding an array of safety, health, crime and political risks waiting for them.
To take advantage of the growing opportunities offered by international commerce, companies have to pay attention to general and location-specific hazards and develop appropriate policies.
For example, to reduce the chance of a travel accident disrupting a company’s operations, companies shouldn’t allow more than two or three key people to travel together.
Know Where You’re Going
An important early step in protecting workers traveling internationally is researching the countries that people may be visiting. The U.S. State Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a number of private organizations publish advice about assessing the following types of risk:
- Political: Domestic unrest can disrupt governmental operations and local travel, and political instability can affect your ability to conduct business (especially with a state-owned company).
- Crime and safety: A number of countries with a high risk of kidnapping or other crimes may merit additional precautions.
- Health: The CDC can provide specific information about any health-related considerations, such as recommended vaccinations and disease outbreaks affecting your employees’ destination. It’s also helpful to evaluate the country’s health care system and facilities before the trip.
If a country is experiencing political unrest or a disease epidemic, it may be more prudent to reschedule the trip until the situation stabilizes, or to explore meeting with your international partners in a third country.
As executives venture internationally, it’s important to consider the safety records of air carriers that serve the travel destination, as well as hotels that the executive may be staying in. Check with the hotel (and independent information sources) to evaluate its security procedures and location. In some cases, an alternate property in a different neighborhood may offer a safer choice.
Companies should also consider the employee’s ground transportation needs. Trying to drive in an unfamiliar nation can be challenging at best, and often presents unacceptable risks. Depending on the destination, public transportation may (or may not) offer a suitable alternative.
In some situations, hiring a local chauffeur can be a good investment that saves time, improves safety and reduces stress.
Companies should also consider the risk of an employee being affected by a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake or a hurricane. Packing extra prescription medication, a first-aid kit or iodine tablets to purify water can provide valuable should a disaster occur.
Communication is Critical
Because international situations can change very quickly, it is vital for companies to know the location of traveling executives and to take prudent steps to ensure they can communicate with them.
At a minimum, workers should keep employers informed about their itineraries and any chances that occur during the trip. Executives should also provide emergency contact information so that companies can reach and assist the employees’ families.
Depending on the location, a satellite phone can be invaluable in ensuring communication.
Regardless of where your business takes you, careful research and planning can help reduce the risk of global travel. Your company’s travel policies should combine common sense with an understanding of the particular risks posed by your workers’ intended destinations.
To learn more:
- Department of State Travel Warnings
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Travelers' Health
- Transportation Security Administration
- Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)