Traveling for business has become almost inevitable in a variety of professions. While client meetings and team working sessions are an important part of business trips, so too is the safety and security of your team while traveling. When planning business trips, it is important to consider how your team’s safety will be impacted during every step of the travel itinerary. Gaining insight into your travel destination and having awareness of potential hazards, conflict situations, political sensitivities, and historical trends that can all impact what appears to be a simple business trip is necessary to do prior to departure. Depending on your destination, accommodation, transportation, and scheduled plans, there are many moving parts to consider to keep everyone safe.
We’ve put together a complete list of business travel safety tips to help you ensure your and your team’s safety while abroad.
Business Travel Safety Tips
Before you leave
1. Familiarize yourself with local customs
As business travelers, you and your team should get familiarized with cultural and business customs before your departure. Not knowing what is customary in the country you are traveling to can cause unintentional offense or conflict. For example, in Japan, business cards are held in high regard; they should be handed out and received with both hands and never played with or written on—especially during a meeting!
It is also a good idea to learn a few key phrases such as greetings, thank-yous, and goodbyes, to show respect to clients and locals. Consider sending your team a cheat sheet for them to study and refer to while traveling.
2. Understand local laws
With so much diversity in the world, it is no surprise that there are varying laws and rules in each country. For example, it is illegal to chew gum in Singapore, and swearing in public in Muslim states, like the United Arab Emirates, could get you fined, jailed, or deported. Keep your team safe by reviewing and understanding local laws in your travel country prior to taking off.
3. Learn about political and civil unrest
Political instability can lead to serious trip disruption and put the lives of travelers at risk. Riots, demonstrations, and terrorism are a real threat when traveling to countries with unrest. When planning your business trip, check the Global Protest Tracker to learn about active unrest, follow up-to-date travel advisories from your government, and avoid corporate travel in areas of extreme conflict.
Ask the question, should you or others be traveling to this destination right now? What is the climate? What are the risks? Obtaining threat, hazard, and risk assessments tailored to your travel itinerary can notify you of unforeseen dangers and provide awareness. Find out more on the Paladin Risk Solutions site.
4. Know unsafe areas and districts
Every city has a “rough part of town” (or two, depending on where you’re traveling to). Familiarize yourself with these locations ahead of time and avoid unplanned stops or accommodation and restaurant bookings in these unsafe areas.
Consider risk awareness training for you and your employees, to learn best practices on how to be aware of threats and risks, and to gain environmental awareness.
5. Be prepared for the weather and possible natural disasters
Beyond checking the forecast to see if you’ll need to pack a raincoat, it is also important to check for larger risks like hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes. Take extra precautions and familiarize yourself and your team with safety protocols in the event of a natural disaster.
Get up-to-date weather information and warnings on global weather websites like The World Meteorological Organization.
6. Create a contacts list
Knowing who to call when you are in an emergency situation is an important consideration to stay safe during business travel. Create a list of emergency and medical support contacts including local emergency services, and embassies. Know where these establishments are in relation to your accommodations and workspace and be sure to have a list of contact information for relevant corporate emergency contacts (like travel managers) in case you need emergency help.
7. Understand how COVID-19 has impacted the country
As a result of the economic downturn due to COVID-19, there has been an increase in unemployment, which can lead to a spike in crime in certain areas. Theft, robbery, drug-related violence, and more may be heightened in other countries post-pandemic. Be sure to perform a travel risk assessment to fully understand the safety risks that may be waiting for you at your destination.
You’ll also have to look into what COVID-19 requirements are needed to enter the country. For example, do you have to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to taking off? If so, what kind of test is needed, will an antigen test be sufficient or does it have to be a PCR test? It’s the same for returning home. The last thing you’ll want is to be unprepared when trying to catch your flight.
At the hotel or accommodation
8. Keep accommodation details to yourself
Information like your accommodation address, room number, room key codes, travel documents, and additional security information should be kept confidential. Try not to speak loudly when discussing this type of information and never share it with strangers or people outside of your work cohort.
9. Avoid being followed to your room
As an extra safety precaution, when your team is heading to their individual rooms— especially female business travelers—be sure to not let anyone follow. If someone is waiting for the elevator with you, let them go ahead and wait for an empty elevator. You can check your phone or ruffle through documents to signify you’re not ready to head up yet, simply gesture to them to go ahead.
10. Use all locks on hotel doors and windows
Whenever you are in your room, use the deadbolt and swing lock once you close the door. Lock all windows and access areas, especially if the room is on the ground level or second floor, and while sleeping or away from the room.
11. Always use the peephole
If someone you don’t know is at the door, keep it closed and locked, and do not shout at them through the door. Simply ignore the knocks and they will likely go away. If someone is trying to force their way in, call the front desk immediately and notify them of the situation.
12. Know the emergency exits
When arriving at any business stay accommodations, you and your team should familiarize yourself with the emergency exits. In case of a fire or need for evacuation, you and your team should be well-versed in how to exit the building safely.
13. Understand local ground transportation options
Transportation from the airport to the hotel should be established ahead of time. Not all cities have Uber. Most, however, will have taxis and car rentals. Arranging for transportation before arrival can save on cost and confusion, and keep travel plans running on schedule. Getting from the hotel to a conference center, office, meeting location, or downtown should also be considered ahead of time, with correct payment options available to employees if using taxis or public transport like the bus.
14. Be smart if you’re renting a vehicle
Depending on the trip, you or your staff may be required to drive. Get familiar with the areas you’ll be driving ahead of time and plan your route on a map. Make sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelts and drive with the doors locked. Know where the bad parts of town are and where not to stop for gas. Always lock and alarm the vehicle when it is parked and keep valuables or any loose items out of sight and stored in the trunk to help prevent break-ins.
During the business trip
15. Try not to stand out
Despite the fact that you are a visitor in a foreign country, try not to look like it. If you and your team arrive in overly flashy jewelry, clothing, shoes, and expensive bags, you may stand out and become a prime target for inflated prices, robbery, pickpockets, or physical harm.
16. Know where you need to go
Beyond simply looking lost, the act of actually getting lost can be incredibly dangerous in a foreign land. Taking a wrong turn can put you and your colleagues in a very risky situation. Stick to well-lit areas, avoid large crowds (where pickpockets thrive), and make sure you get clear directions before leaving the airport or hotel. Use the GPS on your phone but also consider printing out a road map or writing down the directions to have a hard copy backup in case your phone battery dies.
17. Eat and drink wisely
Corporate travel isn’t all about business. You and your team still need to eat and drink, after all. Food and water safety is something to consider when planning corporate travel, as many countries do not have the same hygiene standards as North America. Try to avoid street food and tap water, which may contain harmful bacteria. Instead, opt for cooked meals at established restaurants, drink bottled water, and always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating.
18. Know how to avoid illness
Health threats may be a risk when traveling abroad, including stomach upset, altitude sickness, heat exposure, and more. Understand these risks, how to avoid them, and how to treat them should they occur.
19. Keep your team safe during a pandemic
Your team’s personal health is extremely important while traveling internationally. COVID-19 health-related considerations should absolutely be taken into account while abroad. Ensure your team is fully vaccinated, following all social distancing and mask requirements, and frequently washing their hands or using hand sanitizer.
20. Consider hiring a security team
To better prepare you for the unknown, it is recommended that you refer to a security and risk consultant to assess the risks and to provide awareness to you and your employees prior to traveling.
If corporate travel safety is a top priority for your business, hiring a security team might be the best approach when traveling abroad. A reliable travel risk management program can enhance your travel protection. Additional security measures can be arranged to keep your employees safe but at a minimum, most companies will at least conduct formal or informal security training before departure.
When planning business travel for you and your team, follow these corporate travel safety guidelines to ensure your employees’ safety and security at your destination. If you’re looking to increase your company’s security at home, Paladin provides a range of specialized security services for companies and events across the country. Contact us for a quote to learn more. To obtain more information on how to mitigate travel risk, contact Paladin Risk Solutions