There’s no question that preparing for an international business trip is much more complex than doing the same for a domestic journey. In addition to the usual need to reserve accommodations, arrange for chauffeured transportation, and confirm appointments, travelers should take the time to consider factors like risk-management, personal safety, and cultural differences. We’ve compiled several of the smartest things you can do to protect your organization and yourself abroad.
1. Refine Your Itinerary
The best itineraries for international executive travel reflect the goals of your organization. Meetings with clients, investors, or colleagues should be confirmed and well-spaced out. Executives should never be rushed or late if their flight is delayed or a meeting runs long. Not only do staggered meeting schedules allow executives to avoid experiencing the unexpected, but they can also make time for last-minute meetings or invitations to dine.
Copies of your itinerary should be left with colleagues at the home office, which should include your corporate travel manager, as well as a trusted personal associate or close family member. Depending on your company’s policies and the risk associated with your destination, you should consider scheduling check-ins.
2. Immerse Yourself in the Culture
Before you depart, take time to educate yourself on key differences between how business is conducted at home and abroad. Carolyn M. Brown of Inc. Magazine recommends travelers pay close attention to the following factors:
- Negotiating Style
- Attitudes Towards Punctuality for Business and Social Engagements
- Appropriate Gifts and Gift-Giving Customs
- Use of First and Last Names and Work Titles
- Gestures and Phrases
While it’s likely that your associates abroad will be understanding of any communication missteps, having a basic understanding of customs can prevent embarrassment.
3. Have a Communication Plan
If you’re headed to a country where English is not spoken, it’s essential to establish how you’ll communicate. Even if business translators will be available for key meetings and receptions, Brown recommends having enough understanding to navigate unexpected situations that aren’t on the itinerary. It’s never prudent to expect you’ll be surrounded by fluent English-speakers. Technology has made cross-cultural communication much easier, and if you don’t have the time or resources for formal lessons, check out one of the latest, lightweight electronic translators that can quickly parse entire phrases.
4. Be an Informed Traveler
A first step to preparation for any trip should be to check whether the U.S. Department of State has issued any current travel warnings. The government currently has official cautions against 33 countries, which are explained in detail on the web site. Not all areas of every country present significant danger and it’s wise to keep in mind that reasons for warnings range from political unrest and patterns of violence against visitors to milder health events and natural weather issues.
If you are traveling to an area with significant risk, it’s wise to consider enrolling in the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By sharing information about your upcoming travels, you are subscribed to receive communications from the closest branch of the U.S. embassy or consulate. Be prepared for the worst, which includes a full understanding of what the consulate can and cannot do to help in an emergency.
5. Purchase Travel Insurance
In cases of the unexpected, enormous financial risks can occur. Jason Kaufman, Senior Manager of McNair Travel, points out that following the earthquake and tsunami in early 2011 in Japan, many business travelers were forced to pay upwards of $5,000 for a single flight home. Ensure that your travel policy additionally covers medical care or evacuations, or purchase additional coverage if necessary.
It’s additionally essential to fully understand what is and is not covered by the policy: significant political unrest and rioting is typically excluded, and some countries are much more difficult to obtain insurance for. Finally, if frequent travel is part of your job, you could save significant funds by purchasing an annual policy, as opposed to purchasing on a trip-by-trip basis.
While it’s highly unlikely that preparations for medical evacuation or emergency contact information for the local consulate will be necessary, it’s always wise to have a plan for the worst just in case.
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Also published on Medium.Tags: Executive travel, executive travel tips