Safety should always be a primary consideration when putting together an executive meeting. There are plenty of potential dangers to health and security, and these possibilities should be considered when planning travel, especially out of the United States. To help you with this task, here is a list of important considerations for ensuring your meeting is safe and secure.
Acts of terrorism are nearly impossible to predict, which is part of what makes terrorism so frightening. However, some places experience more incidents than others. Be sure to check out the annual report published by the Global Terrorism Index, which ranks countries according to the impact of terrorism. According to the 2016 report, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria were the three most at-risk countries during that year.
- Zika Virus
You probably remember the Zika virus scare in 2015 and 2016, since it spread quickly and was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. While in November of 2016 the World Health Organization determined that the virus was no longer a global emergency, it is still a significant and long-term issue.
- Civil Unrest.
This category covers a wide variety of possible risks. Civil wars, economic crises, mass protests, military coups, riots, and other disturbances can cause a lot of problems for your meeting.
- Natural Disasters.
From hurricanes and tsunamis to earthquakes and twisters, there are plenty of naturally-occurring dangers to consider, especially during critical seasons when weather can be temperamental.
Diseases can easily ruin your executive meeting, and will often have consequences that extend beyond the time you spend abroad. Dengue fever, malaria, tuberculosis, conjunctivitis, and typhoid fever are just a handful of examples. Some diseases can be prevented with a vaccine, but many others have no known cure.
According to the 2017 Global Peace Index, the five safest countries are:
- New Zealand
Most Dangerous Countries
The Global Peace Index also reveals the five most dangerous countries:
- South Sudan
Each of these five countries are ravaged by conflict and regions are torn apart by violence. It should be obvious that you would not want to travel to, much less try hosting an executive meeting in, any of these countries. However, there are other countries that, while less dangerous than the above five, still pose a threat. Exercise caution and do your research prior to selecting an international meeting
Medical Emergency Considerations
When you’re selecting your destination, be sure to consider how medical emergencies would play out in your chosen location. For example, if you were on a safari in the middle of Africa and a team member had a heart attack, how long would it take you to get help? How far would you be from the nearest medical center, and would the nearest center be trustworthy? Or consider a scenario where a medical evacuation was necessary. If someone needed to be airlifted from your destination, would that area have appropriate care available? And would the costs associated present an obstacle? You’ll also want to consider any medical regulations or specific habits of practice—in the Netherlands, for example, pain control is viewed much differently than it is in America. Travel Insurance may help with some of these concerns, but it is wise to plan for what-if scenarios as well.
Establishing a Safety and Security Program for Travelers
Before your trip begins, it’s important to establish travel guidelines. Your team needs to be on the same page, having discussed any potential threats you may run into in your travels. Here are a few key steps you should take in order to ensure maximum safety and security:
- Take Medical Precautions.
There are plenty of medical matters to take care of and that can be handled in advance of travel. For one thing, you’ll want to ensure that each traveler receives any necessary vaccinations. You should also encourage travelers in your group to look into whether the prescriptions they use are permitted in the country where they will be traveling. Carry a letter from the prescribing doctor if you have any prescriptions for narcotics, and carry all prescriptions in their original containers. Speaking of original containers, it can be a hassle to refill a prescription while abroad, so advise your team to refill their meds before leaving. Also, be sure that each traveler learns which medical services their health insurance will cover overseas.
- Discuss Security Risks and Responses.
Take the time to inform your group about the area you’ll be visiting. Have there been any security warnings on travel.state.gov? Does the country’s website have any advice for travelers? If there’s any civil unrest in the place your visiting it’s better to make everyone aware of it. Also, be sure everyone is aware of some basic safety tips: lock your hotel door, don’t roll down car windows if a stranger knocks, don’t go out alone at night, always tell someone where you will be going so you have someone watching out for you etc.You’ll also want to discuss responses to potential threats. Ensure that an evacuation plan is in place, and inform your team of meeting places in case people get separated. Tell your group who to contact if they lose their documents. Also, determine the trustworthiness of the police force in your area. Law enforcement in some countries is notoriously corrupt, and particularly troublesome to foreigners.
- Familiarize Yourselves with Cultures and Customs.
There’s only so much you can learn beforehand, and it’s not like you’ll be moving to this country for a year, but it’s worth doing some preliminary research. First and foremost, what’s the exchange rate? Beyond that, what are some basic laws to be aware of? Furthermore, are there customs you should know? For example, in some countries waving hello is considered an offensive gesture. In other countries, wearing certain colors can be seen as a political statement resulting in arrest. It is far better to do a little research on the front end than to be caught in an uncomfortable situation.
- Travel Preparedness.
Make sure you have special plans for international phone calls from your cell phones. Also, make sure everyone has copies of all their paperwork—passports, tickets, traveler’s checks, etc. Give your team packing tips: don’t bring expensive items, carry prescriptions in original containers, always “control’ your luggage rather than asking a stranger to watch it, etc.
- Take Steps for Internet Safety and Data Security.
Data security is no small thing. Be sure to look into your privacy rights—or lack thereof—in the country you’re visiting. More than that, make sure your devices are secure. Ensure that any important documents are double-encrypted, make sure you lock your device when you’re not using it, and use your corporate VPN whenever possible. Also, use the most secure network option available. It doesn’t hurt to play it safe.
There will always be safety and security risks, wherever you go. It’s dangerous business walking out your front door! But with proper research, planning, and discussion, you can make things much easier for your team. You can—and should—travel, but you shouldn’t have to be paralyzed by fear of the unknown.
Planning an international executive meeting or incentive travel program? Gavel International can help ensure a successful plan. Contact us for more information.