How to Keep Female Business Travelers Safe in the Most Dangerous Countries
Organizations with employees who travel internationally need to consider the safety of their female employees.
About 40 percent of international travelers are women, and nearly 30 percent of countries those women travel to are considered “extreme”, “high, or “medium-risk” countries. Furthermore, the rate of women traveling to those countries has increased by 24 percent over the last three years.
Your organization should establish a program that educates female employees about the risks they face in foreign countries, and trains them to defend themselves.
Research High-Risk Countries and Identify Potential Risks
Get educated on the countries and specific cities your employees are traveling to, and find out what risks female foreign travelers face when visiting those places. Countries considered high-risk for women include:
- India: The United States and United Kingdom government websites state that women should use caution when traveling in India because of an increase in reports of sexual attacks there. The U.S. state department’s website states that Western women, particularly women of African descent, are reporting incidents of verbal and physical harassment by individual men and groups of men. Known as “eve-teasing,” these attacks can happen anywhere,but occur most often in crowded areas. The harassment can involve lewd comments, catcalls and groping. A brutal rape and death of an Indian
woman in New Delhi, has resulted in an increased focus on sexual attacks, and reports of rape in India are increasing, but it is still widely believed that many attacks remain unreported. Both the U.S. and U.K. websites recommend respecting local customs and dress, noting that women should wear clothes that cover their legs and shoulders, with exceptions made for resorts that cater to foreign travelers.
- Mexico: Violence related to drugs and gangs is an issue, and kidnappings are on the rise. Crimes committed in Mexico include homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery particularly near the border. Foreigners seem to be the targets of choice for pickpockets and thieves, who operate in hotel lobbies, restaurants, public transit systems, airports, and other areas frequented by tourists. Credit card numbers, debit cards and cell phones are among the most stolen items.
- Honduras: The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains “critically high,” even though the rates have decreased over the past two years. Furthermore, the department warns that criminals act with a “high degree of impunity” because the government lacks the resources to properly investigate and prosecute crimes. There have been 10 murders of U.S. citizens in Honduras since January of 2014. Sexual assault is also a concern as the U.S. Department states that most police and medical staff do not properly handle evidence in such attacks.
- Brazil: As Brazil prepares to host the Summer Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro next year, the murder rate continues as 58,000 violent deaths occurred in the country in 2014, an increase of 5 percent from 2013.
Egypt: Demonstrations have led to an increase in sexual assaults. In June of 2014, at least five gang sexual attacks on women were reported in Tahrir Square in Cairo within one week. One attack that took place after the announcement of Egypt’s election results was recorded on a cell phone and went viral.
Terrorist attacks continue to be an issue, with two incidents occurring in November. On November 4, a car bomb exploded, killing three police conscripts and injuring 10 other people. On November 24, 2015 militants attacked a hotel housing election judges in the city of al-Arish. At least seven people were killed and 12 others injure. ISIL's Wilayat Sinai branch claimed responsibility for both attacks.
- Saudi Arabia: The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Saudi Arabia on June 17, 2015, noting there have been attacks on U.S. citizens and other Western expats within the past year. The September warning noted the threat of attacks by ISIS, with hotels and restaurants among possible targets. Women traveling alone may not enter Saudi Arabia without being met at the airport by a husband, male relative or male sponsor. Women are advised to wear ankle-length dresses with long sleeves, and in some areas, women are pressured to wear an “abaya,” a full-length black covering, and also to cover their heads. A 2011 New York Times article quoted a woman who said she was advised not to bring Vogue magazine into the country, and that she changed into her abaya while on the plane upon entering Saudi airspace.
- United Arab Emirates: Dubai is a city that has become a major destination for business travelers, but there are still cultural issues that can be an adjustment for people from the West. Kissing and other displays are considered unacceptable and can lead to arrest. Most serious are reports of women who were raped, and were convicted for false allegations. The country also has a dress code, maybe not as strict as Saudi Arabia’s, but signs informing both men and women of dress codes are common in the country. Women should cover their shoulders and knees.
These are just a few of the high-risk countries. Find out other high-risk countries and up-to-date safety and security risks by checking out the Clements’ country risk assessment guides.
Top Safety Training Programs for Female Employees
One helpful step is having female employees participate in a safety training course. These courses teach women what to look out for when traveling in foreign countries, and how to defend themselves in a dangerous situation. Here are some of the top training programs for female employees below.
- Maiden Voyage
Maiden Voyage is a U.K.-based network for female business travelers. Its website, www.maiden-voyage.com, includes information about training courses they offer, including a “Female Business Traveller Safety Awareness” program, which is designed to keep women safe as they achieve their business goals.
The course covers such topics as pre-planning trips, understanding legal and cultural differences in foreign countries, transport and hotel safety, staying safe during meetings and leisure time, diffusing conflict situations, basic self-defense, social media and traveling while you have a medical issue, or while you are pregnant.
Maiden Voyage also offers travel safety e-learning modules covering topics including hotel safety training, how to run effective meetings in foreign cities, and how to spend down time safety.
2) Explorer Travel Security
Explorer Travel Security (www.exploresecure.com) offers a business Travel Safety Training eLearning course that is designed to minimize risks for companies and organizations, and their employees. It trains employees on such topics as preparation and planning, how to avoid muggings and robberies, hotel safety, awareness and first aid. It also allows managers to follow their employees’ progress.
3) HIS Training
HIS Training (www.ihs-training.com/corporate-business-travel.html) based in Guntersville, Ala., offers in-person travel safety and security seminars for corporate executive and business travelers. Topics covered include hotel safety, local travel issues, personal safety, sexual assault prevention, and airport safety. It costs $4,400 and includes the speaker’s fee, study guides, emergency plans and travel expenses for the instructor.
Take Precaution and Implement Safety Training Programs
Any women traveling overseas should be made aware of the risks they may face in those countries. Clements’ international country guides provide up-to-date information on health, safety and security risks in over 100 countries. Taking a quick look at these guides before going abroad will help employees identify any potential risks and take precautionary steps.
They also should know, and follow, any customs and traditions in those countries such as not breaking the silence in Finland or being in close proximity to the person who is speaking is a sign of trust in Brazil. The “okay” hand signal is not widely accepted in many parts of the world, such as Brazil, where it is considered rude. Also note that hugs and cheek kisses are quite common in many countries, such as Brazil or Belgium.
Provide a list of reputable transportation companies for employees to work with, and get feedback from people regarding the level of safety from their trip and what safety measures the company should put in place. Enroll your female employees into a safety training program from Maiden Voyage, Explorer Travel Security, HIS Training, or a local program.
Safeguard Risks with Kidnap and Ransom Insurance
Regardless of how much caution you take, the risk of something happening to your employees as they travel is always a possibility. Clements’ Extortion, Kidnap, and Ransom Insurance can help protect your employees, and your company. Clements Worldwide’s Kidnap and Ransom Insurance provides financial indemnification and expert crisis management in the event of a kidnapping for ransom, wrongful detention and/or extortion.
Call us today at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs.