Travel Weekly 5/27/2019
While a Global Business Travel Association and AIG Travel survey released last fall found some alarming statistics about female travelers -- for instance, that 83% reported having concerns about their safety while on a business trip in the past year -- there are a number of common-sense tips women can follow when traveling to stay safe.
Here are some suggestions from two security experts to share with your clients and peers. (These are also solid security tips for any travelers, not just women.)
John Gobbels, COO of Medjet, urged preparation and awareness.
First, Gobbels said, learn about your destination. That includes researching its status with the State Department as well as understanding common local crimes, safe and unsafe areas, safe modes of local transportation, cultural nuances and more. He also advised looking up the emergency number for your destination.
"Many don't use 911, and emergency numbers may vary not only by country but by city," he said. He also encouraged vigilance while on the road: Check your room's doors and windows every time you enter it; know the identity of anyone asking to enter your room; confirm a rideshare vehicle's license plate before you get in; and don't keep expensive electronics out, or your head buried in them while walking.
"Even in safe parts of town, snatch-and-grabs of expensive phones and purses happen," he said. Gobbels encouraged female travelers to plan as many group activities as possible to avoid being alone. Alcohol use should be kept to a minimum, and food and drinks should never be left unattended. It's also important for female travelers to be trackable. That includes making use of the State Department's Safe Traveler Enrollment Program and sharing with family members and co-workers specific itineraries. Tracking programs are useful for worried travelers, Gobbels said.
Gobbels said female travelers should always have a backup plan and know who to call in case of emergency.
He also encouraged them to consider membership in programs like Medjet, which offers medical transportation and security and crisis response.
Erika Weisbrod, director of security solutions for International SOS and Control Risks, also said preparation is important before anyone, whether male or female, travels.
"A lot of the emphasis we place is on the preparation, on doing your research, understanding the risks at the destination where you're going and how those may be unique for female travelers," she said. That includes understanding a destination's culture. For instance, to maintain a low profile, women might need to dress differently than they normally do.
"The goal is not to garner unwanted attention," Weisbrod said, "so what steps can you take to maintain that low profile?"
In addition to appropriate dress, Weisbrod warned against wearing expensive jewelry or carrying expensive handbags.
She also encouraged women not to resist if they find themselves the victim of an opportunistic crime. For example, if someone attempts to snatch your purse, let them; the risk of violence and harm is greater if there is resistance, Weisbrod said.
For more security tips from Gobbels, click here.
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