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Four Travel Safety Tips

When traveling to another country or region, business travelers can suddenly find themselves in the minority. Here are four things to keep in mind to minimize travelers’ personal risk and increase operational security while abroad.

A successful travel security plan relies on effective communication to the organization about available resources while instilling cultural and security awareness in travelers. To develop a more culturally aware business traveler base, start with these tips from Richard Duncan, CPP, IAP (International Airport Professional), principal at RL Duncan Consulting, LLC, and former assistant general manager of public safety and security at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

1. Before you go. Before a trip, the security or risk manager should provide the traveler with directions on where to learn about entry requirements. While it’s important to know the basics—if your passport is current (and not six months out from its expiration date), what visa you may require, if you need to prove your trip is sponsored, or if you need immunizations prior to entry—travelers should also know how to find out about risks associated with certain countries or regions. Often, governments will provide online updates about known risks or other security precautions.

2. Cultural awareness. If the traveler is heading abroad, then more likely than not, he or she is becoming a minority in the host culture. Advise travelers to review the country’s official website for information on social norms, culture, and expectations of visitors. Hotels can also provide insight on the country’s culture and expectations. “The key thing with cultural awareness is maintaining a low profile while traveling and being able to comply with the social norms,” Duncan says. How one behaves at home may not be acceptable in other areas, so the more detailed the understanding of the host culture—including any taboos to avoid—the better.

Often, behavior and attire are the two largest indicators of whether someone can blend in, emphasized by the traveler’s gender, race, and sometimes even subtler identifiers, such as religion.

3. Operational security. It is essential to stress maintaining both situational awareness and operational security. When conducting business abroad, it’s good to remember some basic tenets of protecting sensitive business or personal information, including situational awareness if—and when—discussing such matters in public venues, controlling sensitive documents, making local travel arrangements, and using public Wi-Fi.

“You have to be very careful with public Wi-Fi, accessibility, and ensuring you don’t disclose any sensitive company information,” Duncan says.

4. Back home. Once the traveler returns, a security or risk management team should conduct a debriefing session. These sessions should review any types of suspicious contact or circumstances, and employees should monitor for odd credit card charges and strange social media posts.

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