Supply chains are global, interconnected networks. It’s only natural, then, that supply chain employees must occasionally travel abroad. Whether it’s for meetings with international partners, inspecting remote warehouses or something else, international travel is a standard part of supply chain management.
While traveling abroad may be an industry standard, it can still pose some risks. In light of those risks, here are ten tips for supply chain employees to stay safe while traveling.
1. Research the Destination
The first step to any international trip is to research the destination. Different countries have different laws and regulations, so employees should know these ahead of time to avoid complications. For example, international COVID-19 travel requirements may differ from the U.S., some resulting in denial of entry for failure to meet them.
Employees should also research cultural taboos to avoid and local crime statistics. Learning a few key phrases in the native language can be helpful, too.
2. Create Backups of Essential Documents
Employees traveling abroad will likely have various important documents with them. In addition to their passports and IDs, they may have hotel reservations, health information or contracts and other work-related documents. Losing these could have severe consequences, so it’s best to have backups.
Employees should have both paper and electronic copies of all their essential documents. Travelers should store digital copies on secure, encrypted cloud services to keep them safe from cyberattacks. Keep in mind, though, that some countries restrict imported encryption software, so employees should ensure their encryption service is legal first.
3. Arrange All Travel and Lodging Ahead of Time
Transportation and lodging are some of the most potentially risky parts of international travel. The best way to prevent any costly mistakes with these considerations is to organize them before leaving. As employees research their destination, they should also find safe, trusted transportation services and hotels and reserve them ahead of time.
When employees are in a new country, it may be difficult to understand which transport services or lodging options are the safest. Looking them up ahead of time gives time to read reviews and get a better understanding of the situation. Reserving them then ensures they don’t have to worry about making arrangements once there.
4. Don’t Trust Public Wi-Fi
While physical security might be more prominent, cybersecurity is also a concern during international travel. As employees travel, they’ll likely encounter many public Wi-Fi networks in airports and hotels. These networks are often not as secure as they should be, so it’s best to avoid them.
If workers must use public Wi-Fi for work purposes, they should use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt internet traffic and hide devices’ IP addresses, helping protect users on networks with minimal other defenses. Employees should also avoid clicking unsolicited links, visiting unencrypted websites or entering personal information on these networks.
5. Keep Essential Items Separate
Travelers often keep items like wallets, passports and cellphones close together for convenience. While this is certainly convenient and can feel safe, it could pose a greater threat than people realize. If everything is in the same area, pickpockets or other criminals could steal them all at once.
Keeping essential items separate helps mitigate this problem. If a criminal does steal from someone’s pocket or cuts into part of their bag, the victim won’t lose everything. Consider storing passports, wallets and other essential items in different parts of a bag or keeping them in different pockets.
6. Choose the Right Type of Luggage
Some bags are easier to break into than others, so traveling employees should keep this in mind. For example, hard-sided security bags are virtually impervious to thieves, while soft bags are vulnerable to cuts and tears. If workers bring any valuable items or documents with them, they should consider using harder bags.
Similarly, bags with multiple latches and places to put locks are ideal. While it may be less convenient, if it’s harder for an employee to get into it, it will be harder for a thief, too. Some bags may even come with hidden pockets where workers can place particularly sensitive items and documents.
7. Try to Blend In
When employees reach their destination, they should try not to stand out. Criminals may target people who look like tourists or seem unfamiliar with their surroundings, as they make easier targets. Blending in with the locals helps pass under the radar of would-be thieves.
Part of blending in is simply avoiding being flashy. While an expensive suit and a gold watch might impress potential business partners, they also communicate to criminals that someone is a valuable target. While not in meetings, employees should dress casually, adopt the behaviors of locals and try to avoid looking lost or surprised.
8. Share Itineraries
Another best practice for traveling safely is to share itineraries with other trusted parties. When an employee goes abroad, they should give their manager or another colleague a copy of their flight and meeting schedule. That way, they can check on delays or other disruptions without having to contact the traveler.
It may also be a good idea to share some of these details with anyone the employee is meeting. That way, if they miss an appointment, the others in the meeting will know something is wrong and can help address the situation.
9. Stay in Contact
Along those same lines, it’s important to stay in contact with people back home. Whenever an employee lands, boards a flight, checks in to their hotel or hits any other points on the itinerary, they should let someone know. This gives companies peace of mind and helps them respond to any potential risks faster.
If an employee doesn’t check in by the time they should, the company will know something may be wrong. They can then look into the situation sooner, even if it’s something as mundane as a delayed flight.
10. Consider Insurance
Finally, businesses should consider getting travel insurance for their employees. Since 15% of international travelers encounter a medical issue while abroad and many people have ongoing medical needs, ensuring they’re insured is crucial. Many U.S. health insurance plans don’t apply internationally, so travel insurance may be necessary.
On top of covering travelers’ baggage, travel insurance often includes short-term healthcare coverage.That way, if something happens to them or they need to care for ongoing needs, they can do so affordably.
International Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Risky
Traveling abroad can seem intimidating, but proper preparation mitigates risk. If supply chain employees follow these ten tips, they can stay safe no matter where they go. They can then accomplish what the company needs without worry.