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Safety, preparation top concerns for global travelers

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When flying around the world, businesspeople need to keep their senses fine-tuned for situations that could affect their physical safety and also be aware of the things they need on hand to safely return home.

While many companies are doing less foreign travel, international travel agents say those venturing off American soil are advised to review government sites for travel warnings and alerts, research all online resources and bring specific personal items, including passports, currency, medical supplies and communication devices with accessories.

The biggest piece of advice that international travel agent Nick Gold, owner of Destinations Galore in Breinigsville, has for clients is to keep their eyes and ears open while in other nations.

“You need to take your mind with you. There is nothing you can carry or weapon you can take,” Gold said. “I have been doing this for many, many years and been to many places, and you have to be aware of your surroundings and keep yourself safe. Report anything odd.”

BE READY TO CALL FOR HELP

John Morhous is chief strategy officer, corporate brands USA for FC USA Inc., whose brands include Liberty Travel, which has offices in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County. He said business travelers should keep the local phone number for emergencies on hand while in foreign territory.

“Does your company provide more robust crisis response call-center services?” Morhous said. “[We] offer a GPS check-in functionality in our new mobile App, SAM, that allows travelers to report where they are in the event of an emergency situation.

“Understanding what to do and how to communicate when something happens is as important as preparing for it.”

BACKUP METHODS

Rodolfo Elizondo, head of global business consulting for American Express Global Business Travel, which has customers throughout eastern Pennsylvania, agreed with Morhous.

He said he advises business travelers to carry a “road map for crisis situations to arm travelers with clear instructions for how to seek help when danger strikes, conduct stress tests on your road map frequently.

“And always ensure the plan has several redundancies in the event you encounter any problems during an actual incident.”

VALUABLE WEBSITE

Those in the travel industry say the website for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (www.travel.state.gov) is an essential resource.

It gives the most up-to-date alerts on countries that are hostile and sites where terrorist groups are centered.

It also reports places that are entirely unsafe to travel because of bomb threats and other violent events.

CREDIT CARD NOTIFICATION

Marita Williams of AAA East Central has taken many corporate groups overseas in her 30 years in the industry.

She also encourages business travelers to register at www.travel.state.gov to get information about countries where travel is dangerous and ill-advised.

“Also, you should register your credit card information with your bank and make them aware that you are going overseas,” said Williams, manager of travel promotions and product development for AAA East Central, which has offices in Allentown, Bethlehem, Lansdale, Quakertown and Royersford.

“You do not want to be overseas and they stop your credit card” because of to a foreign purchase, she said.

BRING CURRENCY

Williams advises foreign travelers to have some of that country’s currency on them at all times.

Business travelers can obtain foreign currency at their bank or at the airport when they land.

They also should make several copies of their passport, leave a copy at home and make sure that their passport is valid six months after their return date.

ELECTRONICS

In Wyomissing, vice president Donna O’Brien of AAA Reading-Berks Travel offers a suggestion to businesspeople who need to communicate while traveling.

“Check the electric requirements and carry a converter and adapter specific to the country where you are visiting,” she said.

Nick Gold of Destinations Galore said communication is obviously key for businesspeople, which is why companies are cautious when traveling to another country.

It is necessary to heed government warnings, since business deals often cannot be made in countries that have hostile conditions.

LEANER TRAVEL BUDGETS

Travel agents polled appear to agree that businesses do not travel as often as they once did.

In some cases, it’s because of safety concerns, but mostly, companies hold off on traveling internationally because of financial and corporate tax issues.

There were mixed responses, however, regarding where companies will travel to overseas.

Gold, who lives in Tennessee and flies 120,000 miles in a year, will go just about anywhere but intends to stay out of Turkey for the time being.

MIDEAST FEARS

Overall, the Middle East is a shaky area.

“I would like to go to Turkey, but I won’t do it until it is less volatile,” Gold said, noting its proximity to Syria and troubles at the Istanbul airport, where dozens were killed last year in a terrorist attack. “Corporate groups will usually avoid places like this because you want to do business in countries where there are no problems.”

At AAA, Williams said that if conditions are dangerous enough, American business travelers won’t even be able to get plane tickets to a country.

She also said that, when traveling to the Middle East, for example, female businesspeople should be aware that women are treated differently than in America and are expected to dress a certain way.

TRAVEL GOES ON

Morhous at FC USA said businesspeople will travel anywhere if their job dictates it, so they need to be ready for anything.

“You would be surprised at the amount of countries with ongoing travel warnings,” Morhous said, indicating that increased terroristic events and areas where there are health-related outbreaks (Zika virus) should be avoided.

Elizondo at American Express said business travel continues and businesses will drive forward despite unrest in the world.

“Companies should work with their travel management company partners to evaluate what regions or sites may or may not be appropriate business travel destinations for their workforce,” he said.

 

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