Dealing with a Liam Neeson ‘Taken’ scenario during travel

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When we take off for a vacation in our home country or abroad, we anticipate the best time of our lives as we relax and patch the holes dug in our lives by the world’s troubles.

At the core, no one expects a misfortune during travel; yet sometimes we get hosed when we least expect.

The worst case scenario can only be getting kidnapped on vacation and unless you have a Liam Neeson to rescue you, it is imperative to understand how you to deal with the nightmare if (Heaven forbid) it ever transpires.

In blowing the lid off the matter, Jovago.com, Africa’s leading online booking portal spoke to Mark Gill, product strategy specialist at Seven Corners Inc. which offers a wide variety of customized trip protection solutions to international travellers.

What are the kidnap statistics during travel in the world and in Africa?

Historically, people would associate particular regions and countries with kidnappings; giving a false sense of security and zero preparedness to a major fraction of travellers.

inside-a-planeRecent history however seem to be altering this line of thought. A report by Seven Corners shows that between 2004 and 2014, kidnappings in Africa and Asia Pacific grew from 18% to 50%, while historically high prone areas in Mexico and South America saw a remarkable drop from 55% to 23%.

It is also estimated that between $500 million and $1 billion is paid each year in ransom.

However, the report cites difficulty in giving an exact number since only between 10% and 30% of kidnappings are ever reported to the media or authorities.

What are the major motivations for kidnappers?

Drug cartels, terrorists and other organized crime groups use kidnapping as a means of quick fundraising. The model has proven to be effective, especially in areas where local authorities may be less organized or more likely to turn a blind eye.

What are the risks related with travel kidnappings?

The biggest risk, as I see it today, is that many think only wealthy or high profile individuals are at risk. That thinking can be very dangerous.

There has been a distinct shift in the “business model” of kidnappers over the last decade. They now tend to target upper-middle and middle class individuals in what has been coined “Express Kidnappings.”

These are situations where the kidnappers demand lower ransoms; almost always below $100,000 and often below $10,000.

They hold their captives for a shorter period of time and demand a faster turnaround on the ransom.

These kidnappings are rarely reported to the authorities, not to mention the media, so they attract less attention and kidnappers can perform these crimes in higher volume.

How can global travellers avoid kidnap scenarios?

After speaking with several individuals who travel internationally often and know the risks, they say to keep a low profile. Try not to stand out as a tourist. Dress in local fashion and avoid flashy, name-brand apparel, accessories, or equipment.

Is there a travel insurance that covers kidnap and ransom while traveling abroad?

I’m glad you asked. There are several available on the market in various configurations, but Seven Corners recently released the first two such products that can be purchased online and guaranteed issue when traveling to most areas of the world.

“Captum Kidnap & Ransom” is a full service kidnap & ransom policy that provides 24/7 crisis response team assistance, negotiation and transfer; up to $1 million in reimbursement for ransoms; and a multitude of other necessary benefits for this type of crisis.

The other product is “Ally Crisis Management.” This product provides the services of a crisis response team, not only for kidnap situations, but also for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and political instability among others.

How can a victim overcome post-kidnap trauma?

This is a difficult one to answer.

Everyone will have their own way of coping with the trauma from an incident like this. Seeking counselling and medical attention would certainly be high on the priority list, I’m sure.

The good news is that it can be overcome especially with the moral support of family and friends. As Jodi Rell once said, at the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security.

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