THE MAGAZINE

The Business of Travel Safety

By Tzviel Blankchtein

The security team must also plan for local ground transportation once the executive arrives at the destination. Once again, variables must be weighed to decrease the possibility of becoming a victim of street-level crime, for example. Using a trusted driving service is preferable, but other options include using public transportation, taking a shuttle, or renting a vehicle. Also, some executives prefer to ride in armored or ruggedized vehicles, but these may actually have the reverse of the desired effect: indicating that a high-value target is inside. A well-executed plan will involve sending an advance team to the site to simulate ground transportation, perhaps using different routes, well before the executive arrives. As with all aspects of travel, the balance between cost and security—both high and low profile—will be the final deciding factor.

Lodging. Lodging is a critical component of travel that is sometimes mistakenly treated as a lower priority by security teams. Not all hotels are created equal. Some are targeted because of their high profile or the tourists they attract, while others do not offer an adequate level of security to effectively protect their guests.

Because different hotels have established security protocols for different threats, the dangers that they believe to be the most immediate may not be the same ones that are of highest concern to executives. A hotel, for example, may have excellent deterrents against street-level crime, but no counterterrorism elements.

Again, an advance team should perform a security audit if possible, noting such things as distance from rooms to fire escapes, the presence of after-hours access control, and perimeter protection around a property. Many good hotel security checklists are publicly available.

Social climate. Awareness of potential social and political strife may allow the executive to avoid potentially hazardous situations. A thorough and well-devised pretravel plan will include a dossier on the political, economic, and social climate at the destination. For example, providing an executive with a report on Kenya during an election year, which is well-known to be a regular time of civil unrest, can go a long way in preparing the traveler for potentially threatening conditions.

In addition to big picture awareness, keeping up with specific news events in the destination country leading up to the trip can prove critical to planning. In one instance, a private security detail was traveling with a religious group going on a humanitarian trip to Nairobi, Kenya. Shortly before the group departed for their trip, a Christian church in the African capital city was attacked with a grenade by an anti-Christian group. Taking this recent event into account, the security company changed the previously planned hotels and travel routes for the group, and increased the safety for the religious leader being escorted. 

Every location that the executive plans to visit, whether for business meetings or simply meals, must also be vetted in advance. Information can be retrieved that would suggest any connection, regardless of how seemingly insignificant, with criminal or terrorist organizations. The security team should map out unsafe areas or neighborhoods in advance so that the executive may avoid those locations.
 

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