By Joseph McMahon
Now that the world is slowly opening up (touch wood…!), I’ve realised I’m pretty rusty on the travelling front, funny what you forget after a year and a half sitting at home!
This is my top ten list of resources I’m turning to now that I’m travelling to riskier places. If you think of anything else - check out number 10 😉
1. Local knowledge - Call someone in the local office or ask a few questions at the end of a call. I’ll start with something like ‘hey what's the weather like over there? Anything in particular I should bring? Then casually ask about security. "Can I go out at night? My hotel is in X location, anything I should know about?" And go from there. If I don’t have a local contact I’ll call my hotel and ask the concierge. I sometimes call the Embassy or Consulate if I’m worried about something in particular. Chatting with colleagues who’ve already travelled to the destination is great too, although I tend to weigh their risk appetite in relation to mine, and I’m careful of hubris and adrenaline junkies!
2. Professional travel advice – I have access to the website and email reports of a travel security provider through my company. That gives me a good reliable first look at the main issues. I’ll stick to that advice, so thumbs up to that, but travel advice from such companies can be a little generic, addressing a wide business traveller audience, which can be a little repetitive and it won’t give me the full feeling and context of where I’m going to be travelling to.
3. Websites - I’ll check my home countries travel information site. Government travel advice can be very risk averse though and I've often found myself disregarding their advice once I had more information from other sources. In any case I use the UK government's advice, but the US Department of State, and the OSAC site are very good too. I’ll also check tourist travel websites. Whilst they are not business travel focussed, travel companies such as Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide have pretty good information for free on their websites.
4. Local news or radio - I’ll listen to an English-speaking news channels of the place I’m going to. I’ll access them on sites such as TuneIn radio to get a flavour for what’s going on. If anything, it makes me seem clever and knowledgeable to my peers.
5. International news and newspapers – I’ll check my destination’s news channels too, (often while I’m brushing my teeth…). When I check news headlines online, I’ll spend that extra second to select the region that I’m traveling to or I’ll type in my destination into the search engine. A good trick is to imagine that I’m going to go there to live and want to get a feel for the country.
6. Social media - Twitter, Facebook, and even Reddit give me a general feel for what is being talked about in the country. I’ll play around with the search function and find a group that fits me and my destination (I quite like r/solotravel on Reddit).
7. Past incidents – This one is a biggy. I’ll find out what past incidents have occurred at the destination, both within my company and in general. I’ll do that via the security manager or the travel assistance helpline. Often, people will say it’s safe, no problem, but if you dig into past incidents you’ll get a much better feel for what is really going on.
8. Business Travel magazines - both online and print versions (such as The Business Travel Magazine) are full of excellent information
9. Your security manager - I've left it until the end, but it's always a good idea to have a chat with your security manager. They may have more information and even have some machine-assisted threat modelling software (pretty fancy stuff 😉). I was a security manager for years and to be honest we don't always feel that appreciated. Sob. Someone calling us up and asking for our advice is always good for our morale! We actually love thinking and talking about this stuff so give your security manager a call once in a while.
10. YOU TELL ME! What’s your secret trick to gather information prior to travel? Got any top tips to add to the list?