The International Air Transport Association stated that an estimated 22.2 million domestic and global airline flights happened in 2021 alone. This is an apparent increase in comparison to previous years. Thus, travel risk management is becoming a topic that is gaining massive traction in UHNW and CEO circles — but also among the general population.
Only a decade ago, the world's wealthy and prominent were not this mindful of potential attacks and intrusions from bad actors while traveling. Nowadays, their focus has shifted due to the rise of social media and increased exposure to the public.
So, how does one go about protecting protectees during international trips?
Escorting the Principal Globally
When looking to conduct business internationally, corporate leaders need security professionals immediately available to advise them on implementing safety measures. In other words, EPAs escorting the principal must be trained and experienced in this field. Yet, training alone typically does not suffice to offer bespoke services.
Let us look at one core trait for illustration: Security personnel ought to distinguish between reality and perception.
For instance, the war in Ukraine has made many anxious about travel. However, most other regions are as safe for travel as ever. With the correct, up-to-date information, executive protection agents know how to assess the risks and advise the principal accordingly.
But how do you know who to pick as your dedicated security team? Here are a few pointers:
- When were they founded?
- How many clients have they had in the meantime?
- How many years of combined experience of their staff?
- What is their background and training?
- Have they worked in challenging environments?
- Are they properly licensed and insured?
With this in mind, operating in some territories will require more resources, knowledge, and experience. Thus, let us explore more about travel risk management in increasingly complex environments.
Depending on the part of the world you are traveling to, the hard and soft skills of the protection company accompanying you will make all the difference.
For example, most regions in Africa and South America will require the presence of security personnel with skill sets and knowledge specific to the area. In fact, even traveling from one heavily populated province of Nigeria to another means handling preparations differently.
Note: A 2022 airport attack in Nigeria resulted in one casualty. During the intrusion, armed men entered the airport premises from a nearby forest and started shooting at workers. When they tried to invade the runway and prevent an aircraft from taking off, airport security personnel managed to repel them. This is only the latest in a series of terrorist attacks on airplanes.
Additionally, the right connections, proper networks on the ground, and familiarity with local and state government structures will all make a difference. Things like cultural awareness and understanding local customs and communication styles can help the principal and the protectors enjoy a safe stay anywhere.
Most importantly, there is one rule of thumb to adhere to when traveling to any unpredictable region. It is that the executive protection team must be up to date with all relevant information, including those related to:
- Political demonstrations, and
- Social unrest.
On the more extreme end of the security spectrum, some countries are more prone to elevated risks, like war zones. In such instances, executive protection agents may need to be armed with long guns and work with armored vehicles.
Correct, soft skills are essential in the security industry. However, they will only get one so far. For more challenging environments, hard skills like evasive driving and hand-to-hand combat appear paramount.
Travel Risk Management in 2022
Many travel risk managers make analogies with their previous trips while compiling travel risk assessments. Simply put, they make estimates by assuming that not much has changed since their last travel. However, the chances are that major shifts have transpired. This applies especially to most countries in Africa and South America.
Here is where real risks and perceived risks enter the stage. How do you tell if some issues that the media report on could actually pose a problem on the ground?
The truth is that without local support teams and a thorough site advance, you cannot grasp most real threats.
At any rate, we suggest focusing on the risk before embarking on the next trip. In a nutshell, a risk analysis should be the cornerstone that informs all other aspects of the security assignment in any environment, including the most complex ones.
A prime example of a complex environment is Israel. The country had experienced an uneventful period for years, with little to no local incidents with minimal impact. However, recently it has come under air attacks that left people injured and killed. Until this point, Israel was perceived as a country with almost no potential for serious conflict. Yet, the rocket attacks nullified these beliefs.
Other Security Considerations
On the positive side, counterterrorism efforts and increased security measures worldwide have made violent attacks on airports virtually inexistent. Nevertheless, passengers traveling internationally need to be wary of the following issues once they land:
- Taxi scams, and
- Violent ambushes.
Apart from these, foreigners are uniquely vulnerable to cyber attacks while connecting to public Wi-Fi. It is here that bad actors may attempt to collect intelligence and identify attractive targets.
On the other hand, hotels are softer targets than airports. This is because hotel management tries to convey the image of an open and hospitable place for guests. More or less, such venues constitute public places where criminals, spies, and violent extremists know they can find wealthy foreigners, expatriates, and well-connected locals.
Yes, some hotels take their safety more seriously than others. But regardless, guests should not adopt a false sense of security in any event.
Ultimately, it is essential to note that travel extends beyond hotels and airports. In fact, traveling from one locale to the next is probably the most challenging aspect of all.
Bedrock Special Projects provides peace of mind by implementing travel risk management measures to benefit prominent individuals, their families, and corporations. The Art of Executive Protection – Delivered with Elegance by Design.
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