This blog was inspired by an article published in “Business Finance”, written by Eric Krell, 3 October 2012

 Corporate relocation has been transformed in recent years, giving rise to new threats and certainly new opportunities.  Traditional three-year expatriate assignments are not the only options now available and desired by companies needing talent in a quick and effective manner.   We are all aware of those countries where travel is prohibited by our federal government; i.e. North Korea, Iran, Cuba, etc. but there are other countries that have made the list of “highest-risk destinations.  The International SOS is a global firm that provides local expertise, preventative advice and emergency assistance to clients with employees abroad.  The highest-risk countries on their list include: Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Mexico and Russia.  (Having been to several countries in the Middle-East, I would definitely say that any country in that region MUST be included as a very risky destination.)  The nature of international business risks is changing, as is the male/female ratio of international business travelers.  A recent International SOS survey indicates that European-based international travelers reported a higher occurrence of threats related to travel-related infections and road accidents during the past three years.   Global business involves more germ-related illnesses and much more aggressive driving relative to conditions in the United States and Canada not to mention threats involving kidnapping and ransom.

The number of female business travelers is rising at a tremendous rate.  Women now comprise forty-five (45) percent of the corporate travel market.  International SOS reports a twenty (20) percent increase in the number of female travelers calling its centers for medical and travel-security advice from 2011 to 2012.   

A 2012 KPMG survey of one thousand one hundred and fifty (1,150) senior leaders in mid-sized companies in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico find that:

  • Seventy-five (75) percent of mid-market executives believe global expansion is integral to their company’s growth strategy.  That figure is up fifty-three (53) percent in 2009 and thirty-seven (37) percent in 2007 previous KPMG surveys on the topic.
  • Eighty (80) percent of U.S. mid- market executives think their global expansion plans have been successful in the last two years.
  • Seventy-eight (78) percent of U.S. executives say they plan to increase non-domestic revenues from foreign operations and customers.  This is an increase of sixty-six percent from 2009.

The allure of global operations is boosting the frequency of international assignments. Fifty-seven (57) of the one hundred twenty-two (122) mobility managers indicate they expect to increase relocation volumes during the next two years.  This fact was reported by Cartus 2012 Trends in Global Relocation.  This travel generally involved three categories, as follows:

  1. Commuter Assignments:  Travel between home and destination countries for a specified number of work days per month.
  2. Extended Business Travel:   International travel of o ne to three weeks in duration.
  3. Rotational Assignments:  A series of two or more assignments, which last one to three months.

It is imperative that risk management personnel develop specific strategies relative to travel by their most valuable personnel.  The following list is an excellent place to begin:

  • Increased awareness
  •  Plan with key stakeholders
  •  Expand policies and procedures
  •  Conduct due diligence
  •  Communicate, educate and train
  • Assess risk prior to every employee trip
  •  Track traveling employees at all times
  •  Implement an employee emergency  response system
  •  Implement additional management controls
  • Ensure vendors are aligned

I think, for health reasons alone, traveling “solo” can be tremendously risky. One of the huge issues existing in today’s global travel is the inability to communicate.  (How many U.S. citizens speak Mandarin or Cantonese?)  At any rate, pre-planning is an absolute necessity.

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