Kidnapping a reality for business travellers

This is according to Jared Higgins, CEO of the Arcfyre Group – a leading protective and risk consulting firm – who, in response to the recent kidnapping of a South African photojournalist in Syria, notes that it is not just your c-suite executives and political delegates who need to take extra precautions when journeying to areas of conflict.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 1228 journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992. 107 of these deaths occurred in Syria and of that, 48 were in 2016.

“There is no doubt that it is vital for high net worth and high profile individuals to exercise caution when travelling – no matter the destination. However, average income or low profile people who may work in the media, business travellers or those who have an interest in the cultural tourist offerings of regions deemed high-risk, should also be aware – and wary – of the risks,” Higgins explains.

When travelling in and around a high-risk country dealing with issues of conflict, terrorism or political uncertainty, Higgins suggests that high levels of pre- trip planning should be practiced, “Especially when venturing out of your hotel or office where security or safety risks are more likely to be present.”

With particular emphasis on developing countries experiencing high levels of terrorist activity and political unrest, Higgins explains that business travel will be on the increase, as corporates strive to increase their revenue stream and bottom line , and as such should implement mitigating strategies around keeping their business interests and staff safe.

“Keep in mind that it is not enough to simply rent a car. If you are provided with a driver, it is crucial to ensure that they are properly trained, vetted and have the necessary experience and that they have a proven track record when dealing with expatriates, understanding the need to provide assurances of their safety.
“Trained drivers should also know the laws and customs of the country and should be trained to handle potential hostile situations, ranging from informal roadblocks to hijacking.

Higgins continues to highlight that, if travelling for business, employers are not only ethically but legally obliged to ensure that precautionary planning is done and if deemed necessary, security is provided for – through a reputable provider.
He says, “Understanding the impact of ‘duty of care’ and following best practises for protecting an employee is crucial. However, in addition to ensuring their safety and security, companies need to implement the necessary measures to empower employees to make responsible travel risk management decisions.”
“There really isn’t enough being done by organisations in this regard, not only to mitigate traveller risk, but to prepare employees for potentially life threatening situations.”

“All countries, but particularly those where there is political or social unrest, come with their own unique safety and security concerns. So, whether travelling for business or pleasure, your planning needs to address these issues seriously,” Higgins concludes.