Executive Protection – Travel Security
Choose flights that will route you through an airport with a history of good security measures. Executives going on overseas business missions should travel light; preferably take only one carry-on bag. If two bags are needed, it’s best to book an extra seat so your luggage does not go into the baggage hold. Executives need to be able to hit the ground running, not waiting at the baggage carousel of a strange airport. Be cautious of idle conversations with seat neighbors on international flights. Don’t display any items bearing your corporate logo such as baggage tags, ball caps and polo shirts. Kidnappers and spotters for kidnap groups need to identify, locate and track potential targets. By not lingering at the arrival airport, you don’t draw attention. If you can’t be seen, you can’t be kidnapped. Do not discuss confidential or personal plans with airport staff, which may be connected or associated with criminal groups or informants for terrorists.
Always carry your passport and know the location and telephone number of your nation’s nearest embassy or consulate. Avoid discussing travel itineraries with unfamiliar people including host country personnel. Such information should be divulged only on a need-to-know basis (secrecy). Keep unauthorized persons out of your in-country business plans by denying information. Do not discuss personal or business information with strangers. Your goal is to travel as anonymously as possible.
Executives should be aware of potential local media interest. Limit discussions to business operations and not personal activity. However, if executives’ visibility or mission places them in direct contact with the local media and the public with high frequency, then executive protection is recommended.
Executives are at risk for kidnapping because they are perceived to be connected to money. All kidnap incidents are different and impossible to predict with certainty when and where they will occur. The best protection is to blend in and become inconspicuous to the point of invisibility and by arranging your schedule without routine to make it difficult for anyone to elaborate plans against you. Always ask yourself what could happen next and have a contingency plan. This gives you a predisposition for safety. Your threat awareness becomes much more precise in drawing predicted lines of potential kidnap risk and avoidance.
Everything about your visit should remain secret, and you should incorporate the following safeguards to reduce your overall risk and danger. Book hotel rooms under a pen name and not your company’s name in order to remain inconspicuous.
Your luggage should not call attention to your position, company or association. Baggage tags should bear only your name and telephone number. Do not use company logos on luggage tags, shirts, jackets, bags or any other item that can be recognized. Never leave identifying materials or valuables in vehicles or your hotel room. Use the hotel safe to secure your confidential documents and valuables.
Immediately upon arriving at the in-country airport, keep a low profile to increase your chances of retaining anonymity, enhancing maneuverability while being inaccessible. Keep aware of the fine details going on around you. Arriving executives should dress casually to be able to blend into the crowd. Dress down in a modest suit, leave your Rolex wristwatch at home and wear a Timex, and quickly build cultural awareness specific to the local environment. Some pay phones, especially at overseas airports and hotels, are monitored and should be avoided by executives.
Do not hail an airport taxi for transport to your hotel. Taxis present a high degree of risk for executive kidnappings in many countries. Each year many executives are abducted while in a taxi from the local airport. Many taxi drivers work on a commission basis for kidnap gangs and drive unsuspecting executive passengers to an armed kidnap group awaiting arrival. From there, executives may become a victim of an extortive kidnapping or express-style kidnapping. In many Third World destinations, executives should avoid hailing cabs on the street and should never share a cab with strangers. This is often a setup for a kidnapping.
Instead, have a previously designated or vetted driver (preferably a professionally trained security driver) with a non-descript vehicle waiting for you at the arrival gate. The vehicle should not be easy to identify. The driver should be holding a name card under a fictitious name, coordinated ahead of time, in the place of your real name as a prudent safety measure. Know the name of the driver meeting you at the airport, and have a physical description. Do not accompany anyone who does not fit the description or claims to have been sent in place of the person you expected. Remember to keep the windows closed and the doors locked while driving from the airport to your hotel.
Many foreign airports have chaotic security conditions with criminal and terrorist elements roaming the arrival terminals looking for potential kidnap targets. Some airports have embedded passive and active kidnap group supporters. These include customs clerks, porters and taxicab drivers working in conjunction with kidnappers. They receive monetary support for information on good prospects. Kidnappers don’t all wear ski masks. They dress and behave so as to blend into the local populace and workforce, operating in a low-profile mode.
An active kidnap group supporter may be the taxicab driver who « accidentally » runs into a criminal or dissident roadblock on the way to the hotel, placing executives in imminent danger of being kidnapped. Another active supporter could be the airport porter who provides initial surveillance and targeting information about the arrival of key executives. A passive supporter could be a customs clerk who provides kidnappers with your arrival card information data such as your name, nationality, date of birth, passport number and which hotel you will be checking into. Stay away from or limit your time spent with high-profile local personalities as this may significantly increase your profile and increase the risk of kidnapping.
If you have had a direct kidnap threat against you in a certain country, executive protection specialists may be necessary based on the risks involved. The most effective and obvious measure is to employ an executive protection detail. Executives with executive protection details are rarely kidnapped. Detail members conduct route analysis, protective surveillance and variance of routes and schedules, providing extra added safety measures. Only use executive protection services from reputable companies that have been screened and have an operational presence in the geographical area. Keep safe on your business trip overseas and God speed.