The following is an example of why travel security is so important.
A few years back, Kimberly Sue Endicott, an executive heading a company based in Costa Mesa, California, traveled to Uganda. Her goal was to fulfill a longtime dream of seeing gorillas in their natural habitat. However, on April 2, 2019, her traveler’s dream turned into a nightmare.
While on safari, she and her guide were kidnapped. Her kidnappers demanded $500,000 in ransom and held Endicott and her guide in captivity for five days.
Shortly after the incident, a writer for Forbes wrote that “the terrifying incident made women everywhere ponder the dangers of traveling solo to risky destinations. The kidnapping also prompted the U.S. State Department to take action in an attempt to help warn travelers of the threat of going to some countries.”
We need to make a couple of corrections to this statement.
First, what happened to this traveler could happen to anyone, man or woman. The fact is, we live in a very uncertain world where all types of people – business executives, political leaders, scientists, engineers, and social advocates – can quickly and unexpectedly become the target of terrorists, kidnappers, and other unscrupulous actors.
Second, while it was wise for the U.S. State Department to take steps to warn other travelers of threats of traveling around the world, what they failed to mention is there are steps travelers can take to protect themselves, their families, their companies, and their confidential information when traveling abroad.
It starts with being proactive and hiring business travel security experts, a field in which TAL Global is well versed. Over the years, working with many travelers including business executives, we have learned a lot. For instance:
● Most travelers, including business executives and their organizations, know and do very little about travel security.
● Some organizations do not realize that travel security is a complex, specialized service that few security and risk assessment organizations provide.
● Travel security involves considerable planning, teamwork, communication, and the cooperation of many different people and stakeholders.
● An effective travel security program entails more than just identifying potential risks. It also involves mitigating risks – reducing risk exposure and the likelihood of an incident occurring.
So, what are some of the steps a firm such as TAL Global might recommend to improve travel, especially for business executives? Among them are the following:
Conduct a travel risk assessment. If working with an executive, the security firm will want to know if the organization or specific members of the organization have been the targets of threats or worse, the victims of attacks currently or in the past. They will want to know the names of the organization’s top people, how often they travel, and where they travel. The more dangerous the location, the more the need for travel security preparation. They may also want to know about the private lifestyles of the travelers. This gives the security firm a sense of the risks involved, as well as the executive’s willingness to accept travel security protocols. Their cooperation is critical.
Ensure executive protection is available at the destination. Having executive protection agents available at the destination, especially for traveling executives, serves several purposes. The first is they deter threats just by accompanying the traveling executive. Another is to mitigate risks by planning primary and alternate routes for the traveling executive to reach their destination. They also should do a travel advance to pre-inspect locations where the traveler or executive will be staying and working.
Note: In foreign countries, executive protection agents should be local but fluent in both the local language and the language spoken by the travelers.
Prepare the traveler. We mentioned earlier that travel security requires teamwork, including by the business traveler. Awareness is essential as to what to do in a threatening situation, how to remain safe, and what to say and not say. This familiarization and preparation can be of tremendous help in an emergency.
Vehicles and drivers. Light armored vehicles are often provided for traveling executives once they reach their foreign destination. These are often bullet-resistant passenger vehicles, possibly equipped with advanced communications systems, and more powerful engines.
As to the driver, hire a local driver who knows the area well, has been well vetted, and is trained in executive protection operations. Being unaware or needing clarification as to what to do or where to turn in an emergency can make a traveler or a traveling executive an easy target.
One more thing. The travel security firm should prepare a travel security program for an organization’s travel executives. Although nothing is carved in stone and each traveling situation can be different, having such a program in place provides an organization with a framework and guidelines at to what steps to take and what needs to be arranged before or your organization’s top people travel around the globe.
By the way, what happened to Kimberly Sue Endicott is an example of a traumatic event that could happen to just about anyone traveling without input from a security consulting firm. Ensure your safety and the safety of your top executives with a travel security plan prepared by security professionals.
Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international security and consulting firm. He served as a military field intelligence officer for the Israeli armed forces during the 1970s. Tal has also served as an antiterrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, Certified Private Investigator (CPI), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and he holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached on his company website at www.talglobal.com.