City Weekend

Think safety first, not cost, in corporate travel, security expert urges Hong Kong firms

International SOS security director says corporations need to implement broader travel risk management programmes to ensure employee safety

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 3:17pm

Businesses that focus purely on keeping costs down for corporate travel could be putting their staff and clients at risk, according to the security director of the world’s largest medical and travel security services firm.

“We often see that the travel preparations of companies are linked to their choice of hotels and their expenses claims and that’s pretty much it,” says Lane Aldred of International SOS. “But they need to understand there is a much broader travel risk management programme and it needs to be integrated.”

In November a survey undertaken by Ipsos Mori found 63 per cent of decision makers at 667 corporations felt that the risks involved in corporate travel had increased in the past year.

Some 58 per cent of the firms had changed travel plans due to concerns over security, and 43 per cent had done so due to natural catastrophes.

Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and car accidents are also common travel threats.

“It’s important to understand there are many factors that go towards risk ratings for travel destinations, whether they be security or medical,” Aldred says. “A number of things are taken into account – crime rates, terrorism, political instability, demonstrations, civil unrest, as well as issues related to manufacturing and the ability of a country to maintain its GDP through growth.”

So how can travellers be kept safe as they jet off around the world on company time? International SOS has a Travel Risk Map that aims to serve as a guide. The company, which specialises in medical assistance, travel security advice, emergency services, health care and evacuations, launched the latest edition of the map last month.

“While there are more risks now than in the past, the world is safer than we think,” Aldred says.

The map shows a decrease in risk in some European countries thanks to improved standards of medical care and political stability. Meanwhile risk ratings have gone up in some areas of the Caribbean such as Puerto Rico due to the effects of recent hurricanes.

“Different factors are looked at by our analysts and experts and they use a set of assessment processes and algorithms to come up with the risk ratings. So it’s not necessarily that one instance or one terrorist attack will cause a risk rating change – there may need to be a number of similar events, a definite change in how a country is viewed or is behaving, to affect the overall review.”

The safest places in the world right now are Finland, Greenland, Norway and some parts of Germany, as well as Denmark, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, San Marino and Monaco. These all have an “insignificant travel security risk”. They are followed by Australia, Sweden, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, which are labelled as “low travel risk”.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is an extreme security risk in visiting parts of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Closer to home, China is considered to have a low travel risk.

While companies are increasingly implementing prevention and mitigation measures against threats, there are still opportunities for improvement, Aldred says.

“Organisations still face barriers in ensuring the health and security of travellers, with educating employees the most common challenge, followed by measures to help employees in a crisis and ensuring they have read pre-travel information,” he says.

To handle these dangers, Aldred advises carrying as little cash as possible and dressing inconspicuously to avoid attracting attention when travelling to a foreign country.

“Be prepared, have a plan and implement a programme for employees to understand existing issues while away on business,” he says.











United Kingdom

United States


Countries or regions with an extreme security risk rating


South Sudan

Central African Republic