Navigating Emerging Markets
For Canadian travellers doing business in emerging markets, a typical trip may hardly be routine.
By Julie Charles
Getting into Russia was no problem for Tom Osovitzki, visiting his company’s newly opened Moscow office last year. Leaving was another story.
“Customs officials, on the way out, can be very intimidating. They held me back for some time looking at my passport with a magnifying glass,” says Toronto-based Osovitzki. As an industry professional — he is CEO of Toronto-based travel management firm ctms Travel — Osovitzki knew his documents were impeccable, so took the delay in stride.
“It sounds like such a stereotype, but business travellers have to be prepared for things like that when travelling to emerging markets,” says Osovitzki. Flight and hotel bookings are just the start: they’ve got to know what to expect culturally, how to stay calm, and what to do in case of the unexpected.
Going Where the Growth Is
According to a 2011 report by Ernst & Young, 70 per cent of global economic growth will come from emerging markets in the years ahead. As Canadian businesses chase opportunities in booming economies such as China, Russia, India and Brazil, travel managers face a new set of challenges and risks.
Whether staff are voyaging for gold exploration in Africa, manufacturing in China or a sales mission to India, the rules of corporate travel management may require fine-tuning, for comfort and security.
• Paper chase. Travel restrictions or missed entry requirements can derail business trips and strand travellers. Having a travel management company (TMC) that knows the finer print of getting visas smoothly and efficiently is extremely important. Ask your TMC if they have an in-house visa desk that works with consulates and arranges letters of introduction.
• Spending for safety. Travel managers used to negotiating a deal may get sticker-shock. Osovitzki says his team has to educate travellers and their bookers and sometimes restrain expectations. “Although some of these economies are way behind our own with few facilities, what is available [and deemed secure] is likely to be expensive.”
• Planning ground transport. In many places, you may need to advise your business travellers never to grab a random cab at the hotel, instead ground transportation should be arranged in advance with the help of a corporate travel agency. Private drivers, translators or even bodyguards may be recommended.
• Data security. In developing economies, business travellers may be viewed as targets for the corporate intelligence they hold. Review (or create) protocols for what type of data is allowable on laptops or flash drives and if it needs to be encrypted, plus the use of Wi-Fi networks (which may not be secure).
A Travel Pro’s Required Reading
Who: Vicky Laflamme, director operations, program management and business development, Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Toronto
What: Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway
Why: To prepare travellers for far-flung business trips, this book can help your HR team or travel management department explain how to avoid a cultural faux pas
Look for the book at leading booksellers, or try the new digital course at kissbowshakehands.com
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