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Staying safe amid a pandemic is key

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As travel opens up, how are businesses protecting employees, and how are individual travelers staying safe?

It has been a long year of limited travel. However, as vaccines are administered and COVID-19 infection rates decrease, border restrictions are beginning to ease, and travelers are emerging from mandated hibernation. Businesses are as eager to resume face-to-face meetings as tourists are eager to find new ways to unwind.

While travel procedures now come with a pandemic element, there are a number of issues that travelers need to be aware of as they hit the open road. Businesses must concern themselves with the safety of their employees, and families and individuals must understand fully the areas in which they will be traveling.

Duty of Care
For businesses, keeping employees safe should be a primary concern when they are traveling on behalf of the company. When sending employees out on work-related trips, businesses have a duty of care – the duty to take reasonable steps to avoid causing harm to their employees.

Your business should understand the risks of the environment to which your employees will travel. That includes understanding the threat landscape, the political climate, the cultural concerns, and the rules your employees should be following in order to stay safe.

For example, employees could run afoul of local laws by possessing sensitive photos, social media content, or other material stored on electronic devices that may be illegal or considered controversial or provocative, according to regional customs.

Some of the questions your organization should be considering include: What are the local laws that employees may not know about? Which variances in customs or traditions could create legal complications for your employees? What are the more common crimes against foreigners? Which scams do your employees need to be aware of?

Even understanding the customs and security risks may not be enough. Your organization should examine individual risks before sending employees to other countries. Is your employee’s lifestyle, religion, or sexual orientation going to put them in harm’s way? What’s acceptable for a person to do in their country of residence could be an illegal act in another country.

Tourism Concerns
Those same risks can befall individual tourists and, depending on the location and the number of people in your party, can be compounded. For example, you and your friend have planned the hike of a lifetime – one that will take you through six countries on two continents. You’ve planned transportation, equipment, and food. However, you didn’t plan for inadvertently crossing borders. Inadvertently crossing a border in some countries could land you in jail.

So could not understanding local laws or customs, or what is considered acceptable. In Macau, you can be detained by police for not carrying your passport. In Papua New Guinea, same-sex relations are criminalized. In Dubai, dancing in public or swearing could get you arrested, and unmarried couples are not allowed to share a hotel room.

Oftentimes, a simple act such as hiking across a border without realizing it could spark an international incident, depending on the political climate between the countries involved.

Preventative Steps
To stay safe, organizations and tourists alike should learn the risks, educate themselves on what preventative measures they should take, know who to call should something go wrong, and be prepared for worst-case scenarios.

And while most trips occur without issue, there are plenty of examples of how things can go awry quickly: a tourist is kidnapped while on a gorilla watching expedition in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and someone demands a ransom; a hiker gets injured in a remote location and needs to be evacuated; an employee gets into an auto accident in which another party is hurt.

While these incidents cannot be prevented entirely, travelers can plan for what to do in the event that something goes wrong.

Every traveler – employees and tourists – should be educated on the laws and threat profile of the region they will be visiting. They should also understand the limited ability of their respective government to intervene in other jurisdictions.

Employers should provide relevant pre-departure information and encourage employees to examine their backgrounds and individual risk factors. Individual lifestyle choices, political opinions, religious affiliations or other activities that may be anodyne in their home country, could create legal or security issues for them in another country. Keep the safety of your employee as your first priority.

For tourists, create an exit strategy. How will you get advice and support in case of emergency? Do you have the resources to assist you if you lose your passport or you need to be evacuated from a dangerous situation that may be emerging? Also, if you run into legal entanglements, your country’s government or embassy may not be able to help. Plan in advance where help will come from, and how you will alert them to problems.

Make sure to stay on top of travel advisories and country information through your respective Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Even understanding the customs and security risks may not be enough. Your organization should examine individual risks before sending employees to other countries.

Protection for All Travelers
When in doubt, work with an insurer that has a comprehensive kidnap and ransom insurance program, including services for negotiating with foreign authorities and coverage for medical evacuation. Our Kidnap and Ransom insurance covers:

  • Kidnap/ransom
  • Extortion
  • Wrongful detention
  • Hijack
  • Disappearance
  • Threat
  • Hostage crisis
  • Express kidnap
  • Child abduction
  • Assault
  • Emergency Travel Evacuation for both Expatriates and Travelers

Kidnap and ransom coverage come with prevention consulting services, complete with country-specific information, and advice on local customs, protocols, and training to ensure travelers adhere to local laws.

There is also 24/7 phone support for any questions a traveler may have about safely navigating a particular region and information on who to call in an emergency. Because AXA XL partners with S-RM, the global risk and intelligence consultancy, policyholders have access to a wealth of information on location risks around the world.

Traveling Safely
Staying safe while traveling takes preplanning. Travelers should know the conditions in the country, understand local customs, and prepare appropriately. That means a one-size-fits-all assessment of country risks, without considering individual risks, may not provide adequate protection.

Whether for business or pleasure, travelers need a partner to help them navigate delicate situations or perilous choices. Look for an insurance program that delivers not only coverage for each event, but consultation and points of contact to help, should a traveler find themselves in difficulty.

Stay alert to country advisories and know what the conditions are where you are going. By putting preventative measure in place, and by knowing the lay of the land before you set off, you can keep your travels as worry-free as possible.

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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.