Security Awareness While Traveling

Security Awareness While Traveling

Eyitayo Yusuf


Media reports continue to include stories about company executives, oil field workers and regular travellers who have been the victims of kidnappings, armed robberies and murder while visiting foreign countries. Recent events have seen a Canadian woman kidnapped in northern Nigeria and her captors demanding $136,000 for her release. This woman was a financial advisor who was in Nigeria with other Canadians as part of an exchange program and she was kidnapped as she was entering a house after attending a social event. There are also ongoing reports of oil workers being kidnapped by rebels in South America and Africa; it would appear that these types of incidents are increasing rather becoming a thing of the past.

Security Awareness While Traveling Discussion

It is extremely difficult to determine the actual magnitude of this problem; however, there are some interesting statistics available through various insurance companies, and other sources. For example, a couple of years ago, AIG’s Crisis Management Division in Philadelphia reported that “there are over 20,000 reported kidnap for ransom incidents annually, with 48 percent of them occurring in Latin America”. There are other reports that would lead to the conclusion that the threat of kidnapping is actually much higher then what is publically reported. Some estimate that the actual kidnap numbers range between 5 to 6 times the reported numbers of kidnap cases. This is due, in large part, to distrust of the local law enforcement agencies or local law enforcement participation in the actual event. There are also news reports that lay out the circumstances in which visitors and foreign workers have been victims of robbery, assaults and homicide. In an incident approximately a year ago, two Canadians were attacked while on a hike in South Africa. The attackers brutally stabbed the two Canadians who almost bled to death before being found and airlifted to safety.

The risk while traveling on business, or on vacation, to several countries around the world is very real. Some of the countries that appear on the top of the list as it pertains to high risk of kidnapping or becoming a victim of violence include; Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, South Africa, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Mexico. Coincidentally, these are the same countries that offer expanding business opportunities for many industries. There is often debate over the best methods that can be taken to protect yourself while traveling in these regions. There are several very simple steps that can be taken to assist in lowering your profile as a target, they include:

  • Avoid traveling with airlines, and other transportation entities, that are known to be high risk and low security.
  • Do not display any identifying materials or items that link you to your Company, in particular, those that identify you as a member of the Company executive team.
  • Try to avoid making hotel reservations under your Company name. Your corporate affiliation should not appear anywhere your itinerary.
  • Try to minimize the time spent in places where foreigners or tourists might gather such as a nightclub, bars, or a well-known tourist area.
  • Avoid dress and behavior that might identify you as someone who would be of value. Try to keep a low profile.
  • Do not discuss travel plans or agenda with hotel staff, they may be criminal Informants.
  • Avoid using the same entrance or exit while staying at a hotel. It is good to change the times you leave your hotel each day and schedule your work day accordingly so that you’re back before night sets in.
  • Be suspicious of any chance acquaintances made in or around the hotel or while traveling. Do not divulge any personal or professional information.
  • Do not allow yourself to be placed in compromising positions.

In some cases, it may be advisable to consider a risk assessment by experienced security professionals that can provide the most up-to-date information on your destination, a risk profile on you or your company’s staff and recommend options tailored to your particular situation. The best method to surviving a kidnapping or other violent incidents is to ensure that you are not put into a situation where you can become a victim.