THE MAGAZINE

The Risky Business of Travel

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Sending employees to foreign countries on behalf of business can result in lucrative outcomes and new and exciting experiences for the traveler. But management can imperil employees by not properly preparing them for conditions on the ground, and corporate assets can also be endangered if employees haven’t been taught to properly secure proprietary information.

Jeffrey J. Gruber, CPP, is a U.S. Department of Defense operations officer who has lived outside the United States for much of his career and is an expert in business travel safety. He agreed to talk to Security Management with the understanding that he was speaking on his own behalf. Gruber says that a strong business case needs to be made to senior management about the risks that employees are facing abroad. They need to understand that unprepared employees make themselves vulnerable to various criminal activities ranging from petty theft to identity theft and kidnapping. They also put corporate information at risk. And apart from the human toll, that’s a liability for the company.

“I was working with one company with quite a few employees, and I was really surprised that it wasn’t even using a [vetted, designated] travel agency,” states Gruber. Using one of the major ones, such as American Express, isn’t costly. In fact, it can save a lot of money by reducing fraud and getting the best prices from hotels and air carriers. And such companies also can provide a travel security management program as part of their services, Gruber notes.

Planning

Travel security planning is critical, but even companies that think they’ve taken care of it may not be addressing it properly. “One of the key things that I see as lacking within the private sector is true planning within an organization,” Gruber says. He notes that many businesses use the services of companies such as iJET and International SOS. These are well respected providers of business travel information, planning, and assistance, he says, but management should not think that contracting with this type of third-party service is analogous to having a security plan. That third party isn’t actually going to follow through and make sure that employees take certain actions before they leave or while traveling, for example.

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