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Many U.S. corporations have hotels abroad that are owned by local businessmen and staffed by local workers but managed by first class U.S. hoteliers. You usually can expect levels of safety and security that are consistent with U.S. standards.
Ask the corporate travel agent for a list of recommended hotels.
Check with the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy for a list of hotels utilized by officials visiting the area.
Make your own reservations when practical and consistent with company policies. The fewer people that become involved in your travel and lodging arrangements, the better.
If traveling abroad, especially in politically sensitive areas, consider making reservations using your employer's street address, without identifying the company, and using your personal credit card. Again, the less known about your travel itinerary, and who you represent, the better.
If arriving after 6:00 P.M., ensure that reservations are guaranteed.
Request information about parking arrangements if anticipating renting an automobile.
Be aware that credit card information has been compromised in the past. Always audit monthly credit card statements to ensure that unauthorized use has not been made of your account.
It is advisable to join frequent travelers' programs available with many lodging companies. These programs enable upgrades to executive or concierge floors where available. Be sure to advise the person taking reservations that you are a member and request an upgrade.
Arriving at or Departing From the Hotel
The most vulnerable part of your journey is traveling between the point of debarkation/embarkation and the hotel. Do not linger or wander unnecessarily in the parking lot, indoor garage or public space around the hotel be alert for suspicious persons and behavior. Watch for distractions that are intentionally staged to setup a pickpocket, luggage theft or purse snatch.
Stay with your luggage until it is brought into the lobby, or placed into the taxi or limo.
Consider using the bellman. Luggage in the "care, custody and control" of the hotel causes the hotel to be liable for your property. Protect claim checks; they are your evidence!
Keep in mind though that there are limits of liability created by states and countries to protect hoteliers. Personal travel documents, lap tops, jewelry, and other valuables and sensitive documents in excess of $l,000 in value should be hand carried and personally protected.
If you arrive by auto, park as close to a hotel access point as possible, and park in a lighted area. Remove all property from the car interior and place it in the trunk. Avoid leaving valuables or personal documents in the glove compartment. Prior to leaving the security of the vehicle, note any suspicious persons or behavior.
If using valet service, leave only the ignition key, and take trunk, house, or office keys with you. Often, valets are not employees of the hotel and work for contract firms.
Parking garages are difficult to secure. Avoid dimly lit garages that are not patrolled and do not have security telephones or intercoms.
Female travelers should consider asking for an escort to their vehicles whether parked in the lot or garage.
In some countries, your passport may be temporarily held by the hotel for review by the police or other authorities, obtain its return at the earliest possible time.
Be aware of persons in the hotel lobby who may have unusual interest in your arrival.
If carrying your luggage, keep it within view or touch. One recommendation is to position luggage against your leg during registration but place a briefcase or a purse on the desk or counter in front of you.
Ground floor rooms which open to a pool area or beach with sliding glass doors and window access, are considered vulnerable. Depending upon the situation, area, and security coverage, exercise a higher level of security if assigned a first floor room.
It is suggested that female travelers request rooms that are away from the elevator landing and stairwells. This is to avoid being caught by surprise by persons exiting the elevator with you or hiding in the stairwell.
Always accept bellman assistance upon check-in. Allow the bellman to open the room, turn lights on, check the room to ensure that it is vacant and ready for your stay. Before dismissing the bellman, always inspect the door lock, locks on sliding glass doors, optical viewer, privacy latch or chain, guest room safes, dead bolt lock on interconnecting suite door, and telephone. If a discrepancy is found, request a room change.
Ask where the nearest fire stairwell is located. Make a mental note which direction you must turn and approximately how many steps there are to the closest fire stairwell. In the event of a fire, there is frequently dense smoke and no lighting. Also observe where the nearest house telephone is located in case of an emergency. Determine if the telephone is configured in such a manner that anyone can dial a guest room directly, or whether the phone is connected to the switchboard. Most security-conscious hotels require a caller to identify whom they are attempting to telephone rather than providing a room number.
Note how hotel staff are uniformed and identified. Many "pretext" crimes occur by persons misrepresenting themselves as hotel employees on house telephones to gain access to guest rooms. Avoid permitting a person into the guest room unless you have confirmed that the person is authorized to enter. This can be verified by using the optical viewer and by calling the front desk.
All hotel rooms abroad are bugged for audio and visual surveillance. This statement, of course, is NOT TRUE, but that is the premise under which you must operate to maintain an adequate level of security awareness while conducting business abroad. Many hotel rooms overseas are under surveillance. In those countries where the intelligence services are very active, if you are a business person working for an American company of interest to the government or government sponsored competitor, everything that you do in that hotel room may be recorded and analyzed for possible vulnerabilities or for any useful information that can be derived from your conversation.
With the basic premise established above, here are some security tips that will minimize the potential risks.
Hotel Room Key
Keep it with you at all times. The two most common ways that thieves and others use to determine if a person is in their hotel room is to look at the hotel room mail slot or key board or call the room on the house phone. If you do not answer the phone that is one thing, but, if your room key is there, you are obviously out and the coast is clear for a thief or anyone else who is interested in searching your room and luggage.
Invest in a good map of the city. Mark significant points on a map such as your hotel, embassies and police stations. Study the map and make a mental note of alternative routes to your hotel or local office should your map become lost or stolen.
Be aware of your surroundings. Look up and down the street before exiting a building.
Learn how to place a telephone call and how to use the coin telephones. Make sure you always have extra coins for the telephone.
Avoid jogging or walking in cities you are not familiar with. If you must jog, be aware of the traffic patterns when crossing public streets. (Joggers have been seriously injured by failing to understand local traffic conditions.)
Valuables should normally be left at home. The rule of thumb is, if you neither want nor can afford to lose them, DO NOT TAKE THEM! However, if you must carry valuables, the best way to protect them is to secure them in your local offices. If that is not possible, the next best course of action is to seal any valuables by double enveloping, initialing across seams and taping all edges and seams before depositing them in the hotel's safe deposit box or safe.
Keep it locked whenever you are out of the room. It will not stop the professional thief or intelligence agent but it will keep the curious maid honest.
Keep your passport with you at all times. The only time that you should relinquish it is:
To the hotel if required by law when registering.
If you are required to identify yourself to local authorities for any reason.
At night, lock your passport and your other valuables in your luggage. This eliminates their mysterious disappearance while you are asleep or in the shower.
Utilize a portable or improvised burglar alarm while asleep. Two ash trays and a water glass are quite effective as an alarm when placed on the floor in front of the entry door into your room. Place a water glass in one ashtray and put the second ashtray on top of the glass. If a straight chair is available, place it next to the door and put the ash tray/water glass alarm on the edge of the chair where it will fall with enough racket to wake you.
Most first class international hotels have spent a considerable sum to ensure your safety and security. Fire safety equipment, CCTVs, and security patrols are often part of the hotel's security plan. Regardless of the level of security provided by the hotel, you need to become familiar with certain aspects of the security profile of the hotel. This will take on increased significance when you may be forced to stay at the only hotel at a particular location.
Vary the time and route by which you leave and return to the hotel. Be alert for persons watching your movements.
Note if hotel security locks certain access points after dark. Plan to use the main entrance upon return to the property.
Speak with the bellman, concierge and front desk regarding safe areas around the city in which to jog, dine or sightsee. Ask about local customs and which taxi companies to use or avoid.
Do not take valuables to the spa or work out room. Note if there are house phones available in the event of a confrontation or emergency.
Be cautious when entering rest rooms in the hotel. On occasion, unauthorized persons use these facilities to deal drugs or engage in prostitution or theft. Female travelers should be alert to placing purses on hangers on the inside of the lavatory doors, or on the floor in stalls two frequent locations for grab and run thefts.
Areas around public telephones are often used by criminals to stage pickpocket activity or theft. Keep briefcases and purses in view or "in touch" while using phones. Caution is urged in safeguarding telephone credit card numbers. Criminals wait for callers to announce credit card numbers on public phones and then sell the numbers for unauthorized use.
Purse snatchers and briefcase thieves are known to work hotel bars and restaurants waiting for unknowing guests to drape these items on chairs or under tables only to discover them missing as they are departing. Keep items in view or "in touch". Be alert
to scams involving an unknown person spilling a drink or food on your clothing. An accomplice may be preparing to steal your wallet, briefcase or purse.
The pool or beach area is a fertile area for thieves to take advantage of guests enjoying recreation. Leave valuables in the hotel. Safeguard your room key and camera. Sign for food and beverages on your room bill rather than carry cash.
Prostitutes take advantage of travelers around the world through various ploys, use of "knock out" drugs, and theft from the victim's room. Avoid engaging persons who you do not know and refrain from inviting them to your guest room.
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