MONDAY EXPORT CLASS
GODWIN OYEFESO (SUCCESSEDGE EXPORTERS NETWORK)
Topic: International Business Travel and Security Tips (Part 2)
Surviving the Flight
Every time I’m due to board a plane going overseas, I grab just about every magazine at the newsstand so I’ll be occupied for as much of the trip as possible. When you’re traveling internationally, it can be a lo-o-o-o-ng flight, and boredom can be the least of your worries. By setting up a few preliminary requirements, you can guarantee yourself a certain level of comfort and minimize your travel fatigue:
- Expedited screening at the airport : The Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) protects our transportation systems to “ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”i You can become eligible for expedited screening through TSA Per √(http://www.tsa.gov/ tsa-precheck ) by signing up through selective airlines (not all participate—be sure to check) or by applying directly to US Custom Border Patrol’s (CBP) Global Entry Program (http://www.globalentry.gov / ). Through the program, a passenger’s “information will be embedded in the barcode of a passenger’s boarding pass” to ensure rapid clearance for preapproved travelers. You can also save time by using your airline mobile app to check in and get a mobile boarding pass.
- Window, middle, or aisle seat: This is a choice you’ll be making if, like most economical travelers, you’re flying coach. A naive or youthful traveler will pick the window seat, so he can look out of it. This may prove disappointing if the weather clouds over and you are forced to squeeze past two sets of knees to get to the restroom. The window seat offers a nice solid surface to park your pillow against, but that’s about it (don’t forget to bring your special travel or bed pillow if it helps you sleep better). The middle seat usually ends up being occupied by a person who didn’t give the issue any thought or by the significant other of a window or aisle seat holder. The aisle seat is for those who, like me, have flown over the ocean too many times to want to look at it and who want the option of standing up and walking around at will. You’ll be much less stiff and sore at the end of the trip if you book the aisle seat.
- Economy or business class: Economy class offers standard seating that reclines slightly; a fold-down table; an in-flight movie; snacks; complimentary nonalcoholic beverages; and in-flight, duty-free shopping. Business class provides special privileges like a nifty ticket holder; bag tags; priority baggage check-in and boarding; entrance to the airline’s club; special extra-large seats (some being lie-flat seats) in a separate cabin; electronic headsets; meal service consisting of several courses of gourmet food; brand-name complimentary beverages; and a case of practical amenities containing mouthwash, lip balm, moisturizing lotion, socks, and facial tissues.
- First-class service offers all the same privileges as business class and then some, including: highest boarding priority, a complete seven-course meal that can be better than the fare at most four-star restaurants accompanied by the finest in brand name beverages, personalized service during the flight, sleeper seats that can be adjusted horizontally, and concierge service at the airport for personal business assistance. First class is the way to go when you have an ample budget. So, if you can afford it, book it. Once you do, you will find it’s the most luxurious and pleasurable way to travel long distances. Second best is business class—not as expensive as first class but nearly as comfortable. Not all airlines make the distinction between first and business class any longer, so check. All airlines have restrictions on economy and discount fares, so be sure to inquire.
- Reading material and music: If you can’t sleep on planes, you’ll need something to occupy your mind (an old-fashioned printed book or a Kindle, Nook, or iPad)—this also discourages the determinedly friendly chatterbox next to you! Make your in-flight reading selection do double duty—choose an informative and entertaining e-book about the country you are about to visit to educate yourself and product- or company-specific reading to catch up on everything there is to know about your customer.
- A variety of music is always available for free on flights— the same holds true for movies and special programs— yet with apps such as Pandora or TuneIn Radio uploaded onto your digital device and a good set of earplugs, you can be off in your own little jazz, rock, or classical music world until you land at your destination.
- Quiet section : If you like a quieter seat on a plane, be sure to request a seat as far away as possible from the plane engine but near the exit area (these exist just below the wings, near or in the tail—ask the airline before you book your flight; the kitchen; or close the lavatory areas (in the front, middle, and tail of the plane). Even the best noise-reduction headphones or earplugs can’t eliminate the distraction of people constantly standing next to you in your seat, so it’s important to stake out the quiet areas. It’s too long a flight to be stuck in a situation you can’t tolerate!
- Refreshments: Although we all like to relax and unwind on what seems like an endless journey, do be careful of excessive alcohol intake—it causes dehydration, acts as a depressant, and causes your body to retain water. Even if you don’t consume alcohol, you may experience painful swollen feet from sitting for prolonged periods of time. That’s why some airlines distribute packages of disposable slipper socks—because so many passengers end up wanting to remove their shoes. Keep yourself hydrated with natural refreshments, like water or juice. And again, get up and walk.
Managing Your Money
Most international travelers k now that they should have enough of their own currency on hand to get from their home to their final destination and back again, plus enough extra to pay for a meal should there be a serious flight delay. In addition, check with your travel agent and bank as to where you can get the best rates of exchange on the currency you’ll be using upon arrival. Convert enough money to last you a few days. Keep these usual expenses in mind when figuring out the amount of cash you will need to make it to your hotel:
- Transportation costs from overseas airport to your hotel via airport shuttle or taxi.
- Tips for baggage handlers at the airport and at your hotel.
- Baggage transport fees from the airport to your hotel (paying for your bags to be transported for you eliminates the chore of handling it by yourself altogether and oftentimes requires payment in advance).
- Gifts you purchase at the overseas airport shops, often because you ran out of time to shop before leaving home.
- One night’s stay at your hotel. You want to plan to have enough currency or traveler’s checks to pay for staying one night at a hotel and to stash it somewhere other than your wallet. Most people pay their hotel bills by credit card, but if you lose your wallet you’ll be glad you kept extra money somewhere else in case of emergency— especially on that critical first night when you arrive fatigued and jet-lagged and really need the rest.
There are many ways to pay for goods and services while traveling overseas: in cash; using the local currency; or by credit cards, traveler’s checks, and debit cards. Before you leave home, call your credit card financial institution to ask if your credit cards are widely accepted in your country of destination and to let them know you will be traveling abroad so they won’t think a charge is suspicious behavior and freeze your card. That’s a surprise you don’t need. At the same time, ask for the locations of international ATMs. Unless the machines are a part of your card’s network, you can’t use them!
And don’t forget to activate the global features on your cell phone before you depart on your international trip! Roaming without an additional charge is not a default feature and can lead to extra costs. Consider buying a special data package and insert its SIM card into the phone. These are called prepaid international SIM cards. In some instances, you can order a SIM card ahead of time so you can get it before your trip or have it delivered to your hotel. Also, if you are on a tight budget, never make phone calls to your home or office from your hotel room. Having the hotel operator connect you while you stretch out on your bed is the height of comfort and convenience, but it’s an expense the thrifty exporter will want to avoid. Instead, sign up with an international discount telephone service and use public telephones. It’s less efficient, but it can save you a bundle—the call that costs US$10 from a pay phone can run you as much as US$50 from your room! Keep that in mind.
International travel should be an enjoyable and enriching experience, but don’t leave your street smarts at home! As a tourist, you are a prime target for crime. Criminals and con artists of all kinds know that you are likely to be carrying significant quantities of money and valuables and that you are likely to be naive, bewildered, and distracted. Don’t be a victim. Here are some major precautions you should take when traveling, sightseeing, or conducting business overseas:
- Protect your money. Never keep all your money in one place while traveling internationally. When boarding your flight, hide your payment resources in a variety of places: in your carry-on bag, inside your breast pocket, in your money belt, in your bra, wherever it feels comfortable and least likely to be stolen while you are distracted or sleeping. After arrival, take your cash, checks, and credit cards with you when you leave your hotel room or lock them up in the hotel safe.
- Pay attention to your belongings when taking pictures .
Never set your purse, tote, or briefcase down next to you to photograph some spectacular sight. While you’re absorbed in getting that perfect shot, someone can snatch your stuff. I have seen this happen in my own hometown with international guests! We couldn’t run fast enough to catch the culprit, and even if we could have, it would have been dangerous to try to apprehend the person without police assistance. Be careful. And it goes without saying: never set your smart phone down anywhere unattended or ask a stranger to use your smart phone to take a picture of you and your companions. Some people can run faster than a speeding bullet, and you don’t want to take the chance of witnessing it as they dash off with your smart phone.
- Be careful about talking with strangers . Always be on guard when approached by strangers. They may be genuinely helpful and hospitable locals or they may be tourists like yourself needing a little assistance, but they may also be smooth professional thieves. Pickpockets often work in teams. One will get your attention and engage you in conversation while her counterpart proceeds to dig through your handbag, pocketbook, or briefcase. Keep your belongings close to you and minimize lengthy conversations when you are approached by a group, especially when they look and act suspicious.
- Find out which locations are the safest . Always ask your local business associates or hotel concierge which neighborhoods or districts should be avoided, especially if you are traveling alone.
- Be aware of scams. Don’t fall prey to con artists that offer you special deals. For example, people may approach you and offer to take your picture for a price, only you never receive the photo, or offer to drive you somewhere at a bargain fare, only you find out later that it cost you five times the normal cab rate. Anytime someone comes up to you with an aggressive sales pitch and you are uncertain of their truthfulness or decency, walk away from him fast. Keep a degree of healthy skepticism. Ask your host or local contacts about what is legitimate and acceptable behavior in the country you are visiting.
- Carry your local contact information, US embassy or US Consulate and emergency phone numbers with you in English and the local language.
- Be cautious about what you drink. The safest choice of b ever- ages while traveling internationally is bottled water, where you recognize the brand and can open it yourself. Be extra careful of all beverages served in public places where you are unfamiliar with the people. In particular, be careful of your consumption of alcohol while traveling internationally. Alcoholic beverages can easily be tampered with while you’re not looking. Further, watch how much you drink because you may not know your limits (especially when factoring in time zone and altitude changes).
- Carry or wear personal high-value items in discreet places.
If you carry a shoulder bag or laptop computer, wear it on the side opposite to where all the traffic is. You want to avoid a bicyclist or motorcyclist grabbing and running off with your precious commodity. When traveling on a bus or train or in a taxi, wear a minimum of expensive jewelry and carry as few expensive tech items as possible. You don’t want to stand out as an easy theft target. And speaking of taxis, only hire taxis from a regular cab service and never let a taxi driver encourage you to sit in the front seat alone or add strangers to your taxi ride— even if it will save you money. You don’t know her motive. Don’t take the chance.
- Use a tracking software to locate your devices in case they’re lost or stolen.
Accidents and illness can happen anywhere and may be more likely to happen while traveling internationally. Whether you sprain an ankle, experience the sudden onset of a toothache, or suffer a bad case of Montezuma’s revenge (better known as traveler’s diarrhea), you want to know you can get adequate medical care fast.
In traveling, what constitutes a serious health risk? The most important determinant of a health risk is your destination. “All travelers should familiarize themselves with conditions at their destination that could affect their health (high altitude or pollution, types of medical facilities, required immunizations, availability of required pharmaceuticals, etc.),” advises the US Department of State.iii High-risk destinations include developing countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Additional risk factors include known risks such as a recent outbreak of influenza (check the World Health Organization’s Web site for any recent outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad: http://www.who.int/en/ ) or something as simple as thinking it was perfectly safe to drink hotel tap water in a developing country, for example.
What should you do if you are struck with an unexpected illness and need help? Contact your hotel concierge, the local American Embassy (http:// www.usembassy.gov/ ), or, provided you are already a member, a company such as International SOS (https://www.internationalsos.com/en /) or the Ackerman Group through the Chubb Corporation (http://www.ackermangroup.com/index.php ). Before you go, however, you might want to consider getting a health insurance policy (check the US Department of State’s Medical Insurance providers at https://travel.state.gov/content / passports/en/go/health/insurance-providers.html ) designed specifically to cover international travel.
International SOS is an international healthcare, medical assistance, and security services company that provides solutions that help people wherever they live or travel, 24/7. Once a member, you can contact ISOS’s nearest assistance center regarding any emergency you encounter while traveling (http:// internationalsos.com/en/emergencies.htm ) by selecting the country you are in and simply clicking “Go.” ISOS also offers a variety of membership plans—comprehensive, medical, security, project, or simply a membership that covers your next trip. Fees vary, so be sure to inquire. Members get pretravel information and advice, a fast response, emergency help, evacuation capabilities, and more. Optional medical and travel insurance is also available. According to ISOS, “Whether you are concerned about finding a qualified doctor, obtaining accurate security advice, or getting travel assistance for lost documents or airline tickets, ISOS can help in these and other worrisome situations.”
The Ackerman Group is best known for a broad range of security and investigative-related issues, with the emphasis always being on prevention. It works in conjunction with the insurance giant Chubb Group of Insurance Companies to produce its kidnap/ransom policy geared more toward publicly traded companies. Chubb says, “Extortion, crime, and political instability are facts of life that corporate leaders must deal with when transacting business in an increasingly global, and unfortunately, hostile environment.”
While traveling, above all, trust your instincts, be alert at all times, keep moving toward your destination, and don’t let yourself be deterred from going about your business.
What Women Want While Traveling for Business
Today, women make up nearly half of all business travelers—and that number will surely increase thanks to the number of women in the workforce and starting businesses. Up until now, I made a point not to distinguish between businessmen and businesswomen in regard to international travel because they are similar. But there are subtle differences.
I have a message for the travel industry, and hotels in particular. Women, more than men, want safe, super-clean rooms with high-end toiletries and hair dryers and complete access to what they may need along their journey: a curling iron, illuminated and magnified makeup mirror, a swimsuit, a bathrobe that fits, extra hangers, razors, a yoga mat, inexpensive nickel-free earrings (pierced or clips), socks, hose, Vaseline, hairspray, and Q-tips, for example. All of these items need to be available to women either on loan or for purchase. In addition, women like lighter fare when it comes to food, particularly when arriving late at night. Hotels that provide a holistic, good-for-you approach to food will win more women for their facility. And women want tech amenities that work, and when they don’t work they want 24/7 support. These are the perks that women want when they travel for business.
What women in particular need to watch out for while traveling internationally is walking around alone after dark in foreign countries where they are unfamiliar with the area, particularly in developing countries. Don’t take a chance. If an area is questionable, hire a driver assigned by your hotel concierge to take you to where you want to go. If it’s late and you are hungry, order room service or order food recommended by the hotel to be delivered to your room .
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Till then, you will succeed