Civil unrest, Middle East, North Africa greatest risks to business travelers this year

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TREVOSE, Pa. – Corporate security professionals, travel managers and human resources specialists revealed that civil unrest is a top concern for their mobile workforce in 2012, via a survey conducted by International SOS and Control Risks on January 18, 13 months after uprisings in Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring. Nearly one-fourth of respondents (23 percent) said they were most worried about the impact of political turmoil and governmental instability on their business travelers. Opportunistic crimes (16 percent) and natural disasters (15 percent) were second and third on the list of concerns.

When asked to identify the geographic regions they perceived to be most dangerous, more than one-third of respondents listed the Middle East/North Africa (35 percent), followed by Latin America (28 percent) and Africa (18 percent). This result differs from the findings of a similar survey conducted one year ago by International SOS and Control Risks, which ranked Latin America above the Middle East as the most risky region (40 versus 31 percent). “We conducted more than 3,000 evacuations between January and March 2011 on behalf of 450 organizations,” said John Rendeiro, Vice President, Global Security and Intelligence for International SOS. “The magnitude of these numbers demonstrates that companies, NGOs, universities and others were directly affected by the Arab Spring and the continued unrest continues to drive uncertainty among many. We are closely watching the Middle East/North Africa region for our members in 2012.”

More on International SOS and Control Risks’ evacuations and support of members affected by the Arab Spring can be found at .

Though the Middle East/North Africa rose to take the survey’s top spot as the riskiest region for 2012, crime rates in Latin America coupled with upcoming elections and political jostling are good reason to keep close watch on this region as well, according to International SOS and Control Risks experts.

“Recently, ongoing violence in Mexico has overshadowed other news out of Latin America,” said Pablo Weisz, Regional Security Manager for International SOS and Control Risks. “While the drug war in Mexico does pose a risk to some travelers, it’s important to note that homicide rates for most areas of Mexico are on par or lower than those for other Latin American countries. Business travelers, expatriates and their companies should consider the Latin American region as a whole when developing their security and travel safety plans.”

Upcoming presidential elections in Mexico and Venezuela and municipal polls in Chile and Brazil, for example, may cause instability, said Weisz. In addition, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are facing their own battle with drug-related crime, having recently committed to a united security strategy which relies heavily on military forces for domestic law-enforcement.

“The headline message here is clear,” said Iain Donald, VP and Director, Global Risk Analysis, Americas, Control Risks. “In a time of weak global political leadership, market volatility, rising social activism and a second potential global economic downturn, business has to be ahead of the game and make sure it is prepared. Just as the global economy has become more integrated and borderless, risks are becoming more complex and interconnected.

Despite these and other issues, the majority of respondents (70 percent) said they anticipate an increase in travel for their organizations in 2012. This finding dovetails with International SOS’ observation that companies are increasing their investments and activity in emerging and frontier markets.

“Having a Duty of Care plan for employees that is in lock step with your company’s security team is critical to bringing operations to new locations safely, effectively and profitably,” Rendeiro said.

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