Pre-travel Planning – Local Employees
International travel to insecure environments will often require the employment of local staff to help with operations, logistics and travel. Travel managers must ensure that local nationals are able to give the travellers confidence in their security and efficacy. The following are three examples of local employees who can help improve the environment for international travellers, with some considerations regarding their employment.
In the new post-pandemic environment, travel managers will face the additional concern of ensuring that local employees have received the appropriate levels of vaccination, are abiding by the correct pandemic restrictions in place, and have a good knowledge of local healthcare issues, locations and procedures.
With good preparation, travel managers can ensure that staff have the best local support available to guarantee their safety and the completion of their operations.
Local agents or fixers can be invaluable in complex environments, and often prove to be an essential requirement for task facilitation. The following should be considered when engaging a local agent:
Local knowledge. Competence in local languages and regional dialects (as well as the language of the traveller), a comprehensive understanding of locations and road/transport networks and an understanding of local cultures, etiquette and related events and festivals.
Administrative support. Pre-task documentation, such as letters of invitation, visas, building entry passes, area access and parking permits are just some of the bureaucratic planning that may need to be completed by the agent. A good local agent will be well versed in undertaking such requests.
Contacts. The agent should have their own established links and contacts within the area and be able to interact positively with law enforcement, government personnel and logistical suppliers (accommodation and transport etc) at any stage during the task, and at short notice.
Some countries have very hazardous road traffic environments, in which collisions are common and foreign nationals do not feel comfortable driving. Many travellers will prefer to employ a driver and vehicle. The following need to be considered:
Appropriate vehicle. Ensure that the vehicle is appropriate for the terrain (4WD if necessary) and neighbourhood (a low-key vehicle may be preferable), and that there is documentation to prove that it is regularly serviced and appropriately insured.
Driver skills. Driver should have good knowledge of the local area (geographically and socially), and should speak appropriate languages (including traveller’s). Ensure driver is vetted and trained. Driver should be employed for whole trip (no strange or unscheduled changes in driver or vehicle).
Rendezvous. Before the trip, ensure the traveller has contact details, a photo and ID documents for the driver, as well as photos and appropriate documents for the vehicle.
Very often, a local driver is not always adequately bilingual to act as an interpreter in important meetings. In these cases, a specialist interpreter will need to be employed.
Security. Companies should go through a reliable agency that vets interpreters appropriately, with security checks completed before employment, appropriate paperwork available to see, and identity cards issued.
Third-country national. In some parts of the world, local interpreters will be daunted in meetings involving corrupt businessmen, overbearing police officers, influential politicians and the like. These interpreters are at risk of being threatened or intimidated into particular actions: they may be forced to give up information on travellers’ meetings, accommodation, security environment, while they or their families may be threatened. To get round this, it may be worth employing a third-country national who is fluent in the local dialect but has no attachment to the region, and is much less likely to be pressured into working against his employer.
Standards. It goes without saying that interpreters must be of appropriate quality. Local agents may vaunt their skills, but they may not always be good enough for a particular level of meeting or operation. Travellers should feel confident releasing an interpreter who cannot do a credible job. It may be worth taking on an interpreter for an initial trial period.
These considerations are by no means exhaustive. They can be expanded according to an employer’s own risk appetite, and the advice of in-country security providers. Northcott Global Solutions is an international global assistance company that provides:
– Journey management planning
– Risk management
– Security support (including PPE)
– 24/7 tracking
– Emergency evacuation
– Remote medical support