WHILE SARS and bird flu no longer pose a health risk to travellers, expatriates continue to face the threat of being kidnapped and taken hostage in Iraq, Pakistan and South America, while terrorist attacks in many parts of the world have heightened security concerns for everyone. According a travel advisory from business risk consultants, Control Risks Group, those areas rated as extreme risk areas for business travellers are Afghanistan (outside Kabul, which is rated high), Burundi, Congo (North and South Kivu provinces), Iraq (except Basra, Muthanna governorates, Northeast Iraq and the Western Desert all of which are rated high), Liberia, Pakistan (the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan), Chechnya, Somalia and parts of Tajikistan (the Afghan border, Garm and Tavidera regions). Indonesia, where militants last month launched a truck-bomb attack near the Australian embassy in Jakarta, is medium risk and the Philippines is low risk - apart from the areas of insurgency such as Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago). Control Risks' regional director for Asia Pacific, Mike Horner, a former assistant commissioner with the Hong Kong Police now based in Singapore, said business travellers were generally more aware of the security risks than leisure travellers. 'We are asked to provide security briefings for clients so that they can still travel to high-risk places and in some places [like Baghdad] look after business travellers while they are there. We have a large number of clients in Iraq who are involved in the reconstruction of the country,' he said. 'We also provide a travel tracker service to track a traveller's movements on behalf of a client, so the company knows exactly where their business travellers are at any point in time.' Risk consultant Kroll Worldwide concurred. Philip Lomax, the security services group Asia chief, said: 'Travellers need to be made aware of the increased risk with travelling to, and within, unfamiliar areas. 'In some areas of Asia, foreigners should consider themselves potential targets of various types of crime and terrorist activity. Incidents of kidnapping and murder are not uncommon in certain regions of Asia and the increased level of terrorist activity cannot be ignored.' However, petty crime is a more commonplace problem for business travellers in Asia. 'Most cases affecting the business traveller are petty crimes such as theft, fraud and deception. They are rarely life threatening. Nevertheless, they are still important and mitigation measures should be taken,' Mr Lomax said. He said it was unwise for companies to send employees to high-risk environments without preparation. Travellers should be aware of crime culture and crime rates in areas they were visiting. 'For example, travelling to locations such as the Philippines and Indonesia, where the potential for becoming the victim of kidnap gangs or a terrorist incident is more a concern than travelling to Singapore or Hong Kong, where such events are significantly less likely,' Mr Lomax said. Control Risks analyses and evaluates the dangers and grades the countries from insignificant to extreme in terms of political, security, terrorism and travel risks. The information is presented online to clients for an annual retainer. If a situation arises, a consultant will help track the whereabouts of the clients' executives, initiate contact and advise and assist as necessary. Control Risks is authorised by the company to track the whereabouts of the executives through information provided by the Global Distribution System used by airlines. Tracking services are available for #5,000 (HK$69,900) to #10,000 per year depending on the number of executives to be tracked. Should the same care be extended to all employees? Mr Horner said: 'For companies with intranets, I don't see why they can't put the risk ratings and travel security information on the intranet. As for travel tracking most firms recognise they have a duty of care to all employees. It can be very reassuring to know that within a couple of hours of a terrorist bomb all your travellers are safe and have received professional advice.'