Suppose you only had 10 minutes to initiate your travel intelligence research, and then you had to provide an initial report to your principal / executive protection manager. Where would you start?
There are six sources that we will take advantage of in our hasty research project.
Before We Begin
If you have access to iJET World Cue (or similar services), then take advantage of those services, but still use the remaining sources to corroborate and give context to the iJET reports. iJET is far from perfect, and it should not be treated as a one-stop-shop for travel intelligence.
#1 Google News
I recommend a quick keyword search of your location of interest on Google News because it will aggregate recent news relating to your keyword, and it will be from (generally speaking) credible sources. Sources will often include: BBC, NPR, WSJ, Etc. This step will alert you to any breaking news or significant events relating to your interests before you dive-deep into your research.
The US State Department is the closest thing to a one-stop-shop for the travel intelligence researcher. First, they provide a list of travel alerts and travel warnings for specific destinations.
Second, they provide a detailed, concise report with the following: passport/visa information, safety & security, embassies/consulates, destination description, local laws, health information, and more. Plus, you will find relevant links here for the State Department “Fact Sheet” for that particular country and more.
“Travel Warnings” vs “Travel Alerts”
A travel warning indicates that you might want to reconsider your travel, while a travel alert indicates a short-term event that might impact your travel.
“We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Warning might include unstable government, civil war, on-going intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks.“ - US State Department
“We issue a Travel Alert for short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Alert might include an election season that is bound to have many strikes... [or] a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1...” - US State Department
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) provides the researcher with crime & safety reports, daily news, and more, for a wide range of international travel destinations. Most of the content here is free to anyone. However, some of the resources are viewable only by members (referred to as “constituents”). Becoming a constituent is fairly easy, provided that you have an LLC or similar business structure.
Stratfor provides analysis and commentary on all things geopolitical. There is only one draw back. Most of the articles require that you either be a member (yearly fee), or that you provide your email address, so that you can view individual articles.
Side note: I do have one criticism of Strafor. There have been many instances when I’ve researched how large geopolitical events would impact trips to international destinations. And at the conclusion of my research, after reading five or more Stator articles about a particular issue, I learned nothing signifiant. In these instances, I could have got the same information (or better) from Reuters. On occasion, Stratfor may only provide you with academic-hot-air that has little substance or consequence for your research purposes.
Twitter is a necessity because it will give us a general idea about what information is currently trending regarding our target destination. In addition, you will find pictures and videos from locals that give you insight into the situation there. It is also a good practice to search the names of your airports, hotels, etc., as you may come across strikes, recent crimes, and other activity missed by the previous sources.
Don’t forget to take advantage of Twitter’s advanced search features, allowing you to search tweets by the geographic area that they were tweeted in.
[BONUS] Trends Map
Trends Map is a simple site that will display geographically, which hashtags and key words are the most popular in a given geographical area. For example, if you were attempting to predict anti-Trump protests in Illinois, the day after the US Presidential Election, this tool would make it simple. You could examine which geographic areas have the highest concentration of “#nevertrump” hashtags, as one example. Hashtags and keywords provide insight into the public sentiment of a given geographic area.
10-Minute Travel Intelligence will not fulfill all of your travel intelligence needs in 10 minutes. Rather, it is a proven framework for the analyst to conduct their initial assessment of a particular domestic or international travel destination.
About the EP Nexus Blog
The EP Nexus executive protection blog, is a comprehensive resource for security professionals involved in executive protection, protective intelligence, threat assessment, and related fields.
Launched in March of 2016 as a resource for executive protection professionals, command center gurus, and close protection know-it-alls, EP Nexus is quickly becoming a resource for those seeking to quench their thirst for executive protection reading.
The most popular section of the blog is Executive Protection Hacks. EP Hacks is a series in which we address complex topics (one topic per issue) in a convenient collection of tools & writings. I am actively collaborating with industry leaders to produce future issues. If you're interested in taking an active approach in moving your industry into the future, contact me below.
Outside of EP Hacks, I explore the following topics in writings, tutorials, and webinars: online tools for executive protection professionals, open source intelligence investigations (OSINT), threat assessment, protective intelligence, travel security, and more.
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