In the world of business travel, 2011 proved turbulent. Not only did business travelers see travel costs continue to rise, but they also were introduced to some new issues regarding their personal safety and security. From public protests to unstable economies, business travelers learned firsthand the importance of being more cautious and vigilant than ever in order to keep themselves and their personal information safe and secure.

Here are some lessons learned from the year of instability, and how those lessons can keep you safe on the road.

1. “Express” Kidnappings
In 2011, economic chaos spread through many nations in Europe, as well as other parts of the world, and there doesn't appear to be an immediate end in sight. Economic crises breed desperation, which has led some thieves to find new ways to obtain larger amounts of cash quickly.

One of these is the growing trend of “express kidnappings.” In this scenario, a traveler is abducted at night, driven around and forced to withdraw money from numerous automatic teller machines until the individual has accessed all funds available in a bank account, then usually released unharmed. Business travelers need to be aware of this when walking in cities at night. Travel in groups whenever possible and stay alert.

2. Public Protests
What began in Tunisia and Egypt moved through Europe, Asia, and even to Wall Street. Citizens came out into the streets to voice their disapproval of fraudulent elections, corporate greed, crime, corruption, and more. 2011 will forever be known as the year public protest came roaring back to life, aided by social media.

With the rise of social media and the proliferation of mobile devices, a large group can be assembled almost instantly. These “smart mobs” can grow exponentially and can even become dangerous. If you find yourself near a large group of protesters, move away from the area as quickly as possible. Avoid mass transportation and head directly to your hotel. If your hotel is far away, seek refuge in a public building with its own security, such as a bank or department store. But stay clear of windows, which could be broken if the situation turns violent. If you can, check in often with your office or a designee back home.

3. Smartphones and Smarter Criminals
Smartphone penetration has skyrocketed. The News of the World scandal brought phone-hacking to the world’s attention, illustrating just how easy it is for outsiders to access information stored on a mobile phone. That case centered on voice mail messages, but passwords, confidential documents, and personal information can easily be stored on a mobile device as well, making a business traveler susceptible to hackers who have become savvier than ever.

When traveling, keep as little proprietary information as possible on computers and mobile devices. The inconvenience of not having everything at your fingertips is miniscule compared to the threat of identity theft and compromised business documents and information.

4. The Value of Being Covered
These emerging concerns, as well as the ongoing potential for disruptive natural disasters and other trip delays or cancellations, mean that planners have ever more variables to consider when their meeting attendees are on the road. Many companies offer comprehensive travel insurance including coverage for trip cancellation, medical expenses, emergency evacuation coverage, 24/7 assistance, and more.

Source: Travel Guard, a provider of traveler insurance and assistance to millions of global travelers. The company offers a range of emergency services through its wholly owned assistance centers located in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Insurance products marketed by Travel Guard are underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries and affiliates of Chartis Inc. Travel insurance products marketed by Travel Guard in the United States are underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa.