In this blog, Tommy Christensen, director of AS Solution’s Global Special Services department, takes a helicopter view of why more corporations and high net worth individuals are opting for a wider variety of travel security services than ever before. Increased uncertainty around the world certainly plays a role, but so do the productivity benefits of seamless travel support and the growing use of secure travel services such as intelligence analysis and GSOCs.
1. As people travel more in general and uncertainty abounds, demand for niche secure travel support is growing
As businesses, personal incomes, and globalization grow, so does worldwide travel. And as global travel grows in general, so does demand for niche travel services specifically. It’s true for boutique hotels and experience-based holidays, and it’s true for travel security services.
There is a growing awareness of secure travel services as an alternative to getting by on your own in by using limo services, cabs, Uber, or public transportation. As we pointed out in a previous blog, Secure local transportation: The missing link of executive travel, it’s only natural that corporate travelers who fly at the front of the plane and frequent high-end hotels also want the convenience, safety, and productivity enhancement that high-quality, secure local transportation can provide.
As more people use these security services and tell others about them, more people learn about them. We know that a lot of our business comes from referrals, travelers who have tried security travel support and recommended it to others. We’re growing, and others in the industry are growing, too.
A growing sense of uncertainty plays a definite if hard-to-quantify role here, too. Media coverage of terror attacks, mass shootings and workplace incidents makes many think twice about travel to places they previously or otherwise would consider safe. This includes entire countries, e.g., England or Indonesia, but also cities e.g., Paris or Chicago, that are in the news for the wrong reasons. Whether or not these places are objectively more or less safe now than they were a year ago depends on many factors and a more extensive analysis. But perception is reality. Coupled with higher levels of nationalism and political extremism, as well as increased focus on income disparity in many countries, the growing demand for travel security can be explained at least in part against this backdrop of psychological insecurity.
Although it costs more to hire a well-trained security driver and a properly vetted vehicle, high-end travel security is still a minor investment compared to other executive travel costs. As we will see below, more people are becoming aware of its multifaceted benefits.
2. Corporate use of secure travel services is not only getting broader, it’s getting deeper, too
From our perspective, it’s clear that more and more corporations are providing employees with travel security support. We’re doing more details for more clients. Over the last four years, the number of corporate secure travel clients we have served has grown by over 60%, while the number of secure travel projects we have completed for corporations has grown by nearly 300%. Although we have no statistics for other providers, we know that many of them have also been increasingly busy.
Why? Duty of care is one reason. As corporate decision-makers become aware of the benefits of secure travel services and weigh these against known travel risks, they are increasingly likely to choose secure travel services when employees travel not only to far-flung emerging markets, but for domestic travel as well. This leads to more and more people in companies using it – also employees at pay rates lower than those in the C-suite. We routinely provide support for all types of employees who are going to conferences or sales meetings, visiting suppliers, etc. – and not just the CEO.
But corporations’ focus on their principals’ productivity is also an important growth driver. As boards, managers, and principals gain a greater understanding of the productivity-boosting benefits of seamless secure travel support, many companies are making this a standard element of the travel package. As the EAA of a major company once told us: “You guys make it easier to travel, so we travel more.”
Even though travel security support is becoming more common, it can, however, still be an afterthought rather than something built into travel itineraries from the beginning. We see more and more last-minute requests for trip support, indicating either that travel plans change quickly (which we know they do), or that the decision to provide secure travel support for corporate employees was made on an ad hoc basis for other reasons – or, most likely, both.
We can also see that corporations are realizing that they don’t have the bandwidth to arrange for the steadily growing use of travel security support on their own and are increasingly outsourcing this to specialist partners. As the number and variety of travel destination grow, so does the need to maintain domestic and international networks to source the vetted experts who provide these services on the ground around the world.
3. More high net worth individuals and families are turning to secure travel services
Travel security support, both for business and personal travel, is also on the rise for high net worth individuals and families.
The reasons behind growth in this segment mirror those for corporate travelers to a large extent. The high net worth, too, travel more than ever. They are also affected by the increased sense of uncertainty in the world and want the best security for themselves and their loved ones. And their needs to stay productive while on the road and reduce the time-and-energy-consuming frictions of travel are also similar.
But the high net worth and celebrities have another reason to opt for secure travel services: privacy. Like highly prominent business people, they are interested in staying under the radar when traveling in order to reduce exposure and risk, and to minimize opportunities for those willing to take advantage of their wealth and notoriety.
Experienced security drivers who know their way around town – as well as the back way to avoid crowds when necessary – are one form of security travel support. Executive protection agents for some circumstances is another, as is having a trusted local partner check the principals into a hotel anonymously to prevent name recognition and unwanted attention. As we will see below, these and other services are just part of the growing types of support high net worth and corporate travelers expect.
4. The scope of secure travel services is growing
Finally, we need to mention how the scope of secure travel support is growing, and now consists of five main service types:
- Security driving: A well trained and vetted security driver, along with a vetted vehicle, are the standard components of practically all the secure travel projects we deliver. This has clear security and privacy advantages compared to alternative forms of ground transportation and covers the needs of most travelers. In addition to the attendant convenience and productivity boosts, getting injured in traffic is still the number one danger for most travel destinations, so secure driving support is a simple but effective form of risk mitigation that we always recommend.
- Executive protection: The next step for clients is typically one or more executive protection agents in addition to a security driver. This provides added security both when the clients are driving but also when they are out and about for either business or leisure purposes. Our clients add executive protection as needed, depending both on their personal prominence and the nature of risks they will be exposed to in given locations.
- Intelligence analysis: Secure travel support in the form of intelligence analysis is definitely on the rise. This can be provided prior to or during trips in the form of security evaluations of or updates on travel destinations; security travel professionals with extensive local networks often have information about emerging risks before these hit official travel warnings.
- Technology: Technology plays an increasingly vital role in secure travel support. To cover this properly would require another blog, but we will mention a few products for reference. Stabilitas, for example, has developed a platform that combines customized and constantly updated intelligence reports for destinations worldwide with individual and mass-notification emergency alerts. ProtectionManager lets executive protection and GSOC agents track principal locations globally, and also lets principals use their mobile phones to check in to provide location information or request emergency support.
- GSOCs: Global security operations centers, or GSOCs, are also a growing part of the security travel mix. These centers, staffed 24/7/365, function as communication hubs and provide constant backup for travelers and other stakeholders, from corporate security directors to executive administrative assistants and significant others. GSOCs are the places where emergency support requests arrive first. GSOC staff process such emergencies and facilitate their resolution. They can also provide a wide range of other services, from booking transportation to remote concierge assistance.
As clients come to understand the scope of available services and discover their benefits, their adaptation grows. We expect all of the five areas mentioned above to continue to grow separately, but also in coordination with each other.