MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ARE invested annually in international meetings, conferences, special events, incentive trips, customer hospitality programs, and trade shows. These activities are important to business, but also entail considerable risk for the host organization. Security must, therefore, be integrated into the planning process to protect attendees and the organization.
Whether security planning is handled by the company's proprietary security and risk management staff or by an outside vendor, the first step should be an assessment of the destination--including cultural and political considerations, weather conditions, health risks, and crime--and of the local hotel security and safety situation.
Planning should address such issues as the host facility's emergency plan and procedures; the availability of operational life-safety, fire protection, security, and emergency systems; hotel guest-room security and safety measures; security staffing and services; current security concerns and risks; medical/health facilities and services; access control; emergency resources and plans; executive security issues; proprietary security requirements; transportation security; and activity security.
Locations. Most special events and meetings are held in lower-risk destinations where incidents can often be prevented by providing the attendees with commonsense advice and customized security and health tips. Having said this, the international security environment constantly changes. A low-risk destination today may be high risk tomorrow.
Take, for example, a South African sales incentive trip by a client company of the author's. The possible locations chosen for the trip were Cape Town or a number of lodges in the game parks in Kruger National Park (near Sun City)--two destinations at opposite ends of the country. In preparation, the author conducted a site inspection and planning trip with the clients and their travel company The inspection included security assessments of the hotel in Cape Town, the lodges in Kruger National Park, and other venues to be used such as the popular Cape Town Planet Hollywood restaurant. Only a week after the inspections, bomb detonated several blocks from the hotel, resulting in two fatalities and twenty-six injuries.
As planning continued, conditions in Cape Town and the other destinations were closely monitored. A consistent pattern of incidents and situations in Cape Town raised the company's risk level significantly.
The client was provided with a chronological list of the incidents, the security concerns, and the costs associated with trying to effectively protect the attendees while in Cape Town. In light of these factors, the client was advised to consider going with the Sun City location, which still had a lower risk profile. (Similarly, if the risk assessment reveals that kidnapping and other crimes of a more serious nature are becoming prevalent in a particular region, security should advise against the use of that location.)
Street crime. In many nations, professional pickpockets and aggressive street people steal not just cash and credit cards but thousands of passports annually. Security planners should investigate the habits of pickpockets in the locations where attendees will visit. For example, in preparation for a sales trip to Thailand, one company's 400 international sales employees were advised not to place passports in backpacks when visiting major temples and tourist sites. This specific risk was identified during the site inspection when company security personnel had discussions with travel agents who had firsthand knowledge of numerous tourists whose passports were stolen from their backpacks.
Another example of the kind of street crime security can warn against is taxi-fare scamming. In this type of incident, taxi drivers provide change in currency that is no longer accepted or display larger bills when giving change, but actually palm them and return a much lower denomination. …