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Business trips to emerging countries – how to prepare for possible risks
Travelling to far-off countries has long stopped being a problem. A couple of hours on a plane, and you can be in almost any place on Earth. In this article, we are not referring to travels within Europe or North America, but the emerging countries in South-East Asia, Latin America, India or North Africa / Arabia, which are becoming more and more attractive for business. These countries offer immense potential both in terms of product and as future customers for European products. Should you be sent to one of these places as a ‘pioneer’, to conduct the initial negotiations as your company is trying to get started in that area, you undoubtedly will not only get a bunch of new vaccination shots, but also an extensive insurance package to cover any possible mishap. Unfortunately, that special care tends to diminish with every successive travel, due to the illusion of knowing the area by now and having a better grip on the risks. However, whenever you step outside your own culture there are always latent risks to consider:
One example is taking a taxi. Your employer will usually not want you to take a rental car in unfamiliar territory, and with good reason. Local customs you’re not familiar with, thieves looking for easy prey or even corrupt police pose an incalculable risk. That leaves taking a taxi to get from A to B, which poses its own problems.
Often enough you might not end up where you wanted to go, as the driver will know quite well that you are not familiar with the area, and quite possibly are earning a local annual wage in a day – and quite possibly are carrying that much money in cash. With some luck and patience and a lengthy discussion via gestures, you might then get away with a hefty surcharge and quite a bit of delay. Even agreeing on a fixed fare beforehand is no guarantee that the driver will honor the agreement. Not all that many countries have laws regulating the taxi business the way they do in Germany. Don’t expect a taximeter, and brace yourself for vehicles that wouldn’t by far pass inspection in Germany.
If you’re really unlucky and in a dangerous area, the driver might even be in league with some organized crime, leading to a robbery in some quiet and dark alley. There are places where police is reluctant to thoroughly investigate such incidents.
More expensive at first glance but also a great deal safer would be to not just take any taxi that happens to be available at the airport, but to book a car (and driver) in advance through the travel agency. Often that is also possible through car rental companies, which offer chauffeur services; local drivers driving western style cars for a fixed salary. Hence, the driver is motivated to take the quickest route to the destination if he wants to keep his well-paid job.
In times when all over the world you can encounter civil wars, food crisis, open or latent threats of terror, subliminal wars, or plagues like ebola and SARS, safety has become a major point when planning business trips. As a result, priorities have shifted somewhat. While a couple of years ago uncomfortable economy class flights, missed connections and substandard hotel rooms have been on top of the list of complaints, now the fear of becoming the victim of a crime is prevalent. Part of that fear is the manager’s concern for their families.
Of course, one has to differentiate between a perceived threat and the actual level of danger. A Favela in Brazil, a slum in Calcutta or a Pretorian ghetto weren’t the safest place to be ten or twenty years ago either. However, such typical high-crime areas are usually clearly separated from international business centers, airports, banking centers or company grounds of European or US corporations. At the same time, the latent risk of becoming a random terror victim has steadily increased since the first such reports from the Middle East early this century.
Of course, there is no such thing as risk-free travel, whether it be for business purposes or for leisure. However, should the general situation in an area turn dangerous for whatever reason – like it happened last summer in Gaza, it is advisable to seriously consider postponing the trip or looking for alternatives. Usually business contacts will usually show understanding in those cases.
Herr Daniel Stock d.stock(@)top-jobs-europe.de