Category Archives: International

VIP Travel Pro Nikia Morales Talks International Travel Considerations

 

Nikia Morales is the Owner of The Travel Agency a VIP travel agency that specializes in working with Celebrities, Entertainment Executives and other High Net Worth individuals.   She recently took the time to share with readers some of her observations on the premium travels service industry and it’s relationship with security.

So descriptive name notwithstanding, what exactly is The Travel Agency? 

The Travel Agency is a full service boutique agency specializing in the unique needs of clients in the entertainment industry.  We offer a full suite of services tailored to each client’s logistic requirements.  We create unique experiences wherever our client’s needs dictate, be it touring, one/offs, production or executive day to day.

Can you describe the profile of the type of client you service? 

Our clients are VIPs of the Entertainment Industry…Artists, Tour Managers, Label Executives and Management/Talent Agency Executives.  Because of their unique lifestyle, these individuals have unique needs and require a Travel Management Company willing to service their accounts accordingly.

Wouldn’t a celebrity or executive just have an assistant book the travel directly with the airline?

When a celebrity or executive calls me it’s traditionally because their travel needs have exceeded a simple on-line booking platform (ie orbitz, travolocity, etc).  Most Assistants don’t have the time to manage the travel of a busy celebrity or executive, not to mention the plethora of changes and details that go along with moving VIPs from point A to B to C and sometimes more.  In addition to the confidentiality, a service like mine provides a one-stop shop option in Travel Management.  This includes, providing reports for accounting, negotiated hotel rates, and detailed flight options that range from the least expensive to the most comfortable.  In addition, direct routing and detailed movement spreadsheets are prepared for the convenience of Management and Security.

Do you see a value in using airport VIP Services? 

There is a huge value in using VIP Airport Services.  These Greeters will have access to restricted areas and have key knowledge on how to navigate the airport with minimal fan interference or long delays in customs and security.  Airport Greeters help to streamline the process and connect all the dots from ground transportation to gate arrival and everything in between.  I’ve found them very helpful with outside of the norm request like last minute prescription delivery and getting un-ticketed bodyguards security passes to the gate so that they can receive their clients.  The key is to have a relationship with a VIP Service provider that has reliable contacts worldwide.

Besides the Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s of the world, are there any locations you see an influx of executive or VIP  travel that you would consider dangerous?

Brazil, South Africa and Russia are places that I’m seeing an increase of Entertainment focused travel that have heightened security concerns.  All of the above countries are relatively poor and there is a very high occurrence of personal crime as well as tenuous relationships between the ruling government and the common people.  While you guys are the experts, my advice is to try and always have the client stay in the hotel chosen for you with help of the local resource and your travel agent.

You interact with Client Security (Bodyguards) as part of their planning the Security Advance.   Do you feel that is necessary, or do you ever get the feeling security is “stepping on your toes” in planning trips?

We are part of one team. I find that when it all goes down The Team (Tour Managers, Managers, Assistants, Security, Travel) are so focused in our respective roles that the only “ego” that matters is that of our mutual client.

Can security personnel reach out directly to a service like yours, particularly internationally? 

Yes.  However, it’s vital that travel is all run through the same source. Streamline communication is very important as the less people you have to deal with in logistic coordination the better.

With international travel, what’s a solid tip that your client’s (and their security) should live by? 

Always be respectful of another Country’s customs and be aware of the political environment before you arrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional VIP and Executive travel Information including bookings, Nikia Morales can be reached at: nik@thetravelagency.us

Caption This #20

 

The latest installment on our popular feature at Bodyguard Blog (and our associated FACEBOOK PAGE). “Caption This,”  in which we ask readers to supply their own witty comments to our humorous interesting selection of Executive Protection/ Law Enforcement / Military related photos.

This one literally fell on my lap as it was on the front page of the newspaper given to me by the flight attendant on the return trip after a recent assignment in the Ukraine.

On one side, protesters.  On the other, riot police, but it’s pretty much begging for you to use the comments section to  “Caption This”…

Previous Editions HERE

Keeping The Plates Spinning

 

It’s been a hectic but productive month on this end.  15 days crisscrossing Australia on assignment followed directly by 15 days with my instructor hat on for the back-to-back ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course, and the ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course.

*whew*

Even in the mist of doing all of this, I had planned to jump a flight and get to Baltimore to speak at the 2012 Protective Security Conference that is now ongoing.  I spoke there last year and it was a blast interacting with the other attendees and speakers.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your perspective) A major client scheduled an important event that involved quite a few moving parts and it because apparent that due to some of the complexities, I was personally needed on the assignment.  Knowing full well how the last minute nature of the industry works, the host of the PSC were gracious enough to understand,  and I will continue to give them my full support and plan on again being involved and in attendance next year.

One very cool post script to all of this was that I was able to use several of the past and present ICON Advanced Course Graduates on the multi-day Protection Detail.  (They were after all the advanced course).  From real world training, to real world experience.

In a perfect world that’s how the industry is supposed to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 International Travel Tips for Bodyguards

 

 

Travel plays a big part in the duties of the Executive Protection Agent, and those that make a career out of the profession quickly earn the title of “Road Warrior” –-Bags packed, will travel.   Taking that travel international adds a whole new dimension to protecting the client, so here are a few helpful things to keep in mind.

Make yourself familiar with the travel advisories. –   The US State Department is an excellent resource as is the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).  Also read international newspapers, you may find that news developments vital to the area that you will be in are reported differently outside the United States.

Remember what’s lawful in the US could get you into some serious hot water in another country.  – Make sure you particularly remember this one as it relates to the possession and use of firearms and other weapons.  This should also extend to your client, as even some over the counter medicines are prohibited in some countries.

Keep in mind you are in someone else’s playground.  – Use local resources when possible to aid your journey.  Think about it, who knows an area better than a person that lives there?   At a minimum, try not to come in with a holier-than-thou attitude and piss off the other security/law enforcement teams you may encounter.  Allies are better than adversaries, and that is never truer than when operating in a foreign land.

Plan for delays. –  While there is a universal constant of 24 yours in a day, time can sometimes move different depending on what part of the world you are in.  Just ask anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in Mexico, Nigeria or India, things just take longer, so work that into your logistics.

Keep cultural nuances in mind to avoid embarrassment. –  Making yourself familiar with the customs and traditions of a foreign country outside of just the security concerns could pay benefits in the long run.  Don’t let a slip of the tongue or a wrong hand gesture draw attention to you or your client.  Bodyguard Blog did a whole article on just this topic, find it HERE.

 

 

Saadi Gaddafi Bodyguard Outlines Escape

Mr. Gary Peters name has been attached to many story surrounding the fall of the Gaddafi family in Lybia, almost to the point where it reads like a Hollywood film.   I’ll say one thing for him, he’s standing by his client to the end.

via:  Lateline

EMMA ALBERICI: What exactly did Saadi Gaddafi ask of you?

GARY PETERS: Nothing was asked of me from Saadi Gaddafi. Ah, my concern and always is with all my clients is their safety, their well-being, their rite of passage, how they’re going to get there. The secondary is their families. The third is their associates. Beginning of 2011, I instigated or tried to begin a process of getting him or extracting him from Libya to a different destination. That was in 2011. Um, why? Because of how I knew how he felt about Libya, how I knew how he felt about the circumstances there, how I knew how he felt about his family. And then my thoughts and my feelings on his safety. Not willing to lose a friend. Not willing to lose a client. And also having feelings of the same way he does about the people of Libya.

EMMA ALBERICI: I’ll just pick you up on that point about knowing what Saadi Gaddafi was feeling. Can you articulate that for us?

GARY PETERS: He wasn’t happy with the situation in Libya. He wasn’t happy with the situation in Benghazi in February when there was a massacre in Benghazi. He had nothing to do with that. The media was reporting that he ordered this and ordered that. That’s rubbish. That’s garbage. He had nothing to do with that massacre. But – he went there because he was ordered to by his father to go and talk to the people. That’s why he went there in February. But the situation in Libya, for the people, for – everything that was happening, he was very distraught about that.

EMMA ALBERICI: You talk about extracting him from Libya; what was the plan?

GARY PETERS: The plan was to get him out of Libya and his family to another destination legally, somebody that would host him, some country that would host him and do everything legally. There was like paperwork, documentation, transportation, air transportation, property acquisition and ongoing security, so to speak. That was the plan. Now he never asked for this. This was done on our own bat to be presented to him to say, “OK, boss, you know, OK, Saadi, this is what I think should happen.”

For the full (and interesting) interview including video, click HERE.

See related HERE.

Australian Prime Minister Security Disaster

“Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard clung to her bodyguard as she was dragged to safety through a crowd of angry protesters in Canberra today.

Riot police formed a shield around the prime minister as they helped her force a path through the protesters who surrounded a restaurant where she was attending an awards ceremony to mark Australia Day.

Miss Gillard stumbled after losing a shoe in the scuffle, but was caught by her personal security guard and managed to get into a waiting car. “

After watching the video of the events that transpired ,I was very confused by he lack of security procedures that should have been in place prior to having a VIP on site (The Advance) as well as some of the actions that were taken when the decision was made to quickly remove the Prime Minister THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF A CROWD OF ANGRY PROTESTERS???

Maybe these guys know something I don’t…

Check out the video yourself HERE.

The New ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course Graduates

 

Congratulating the new graduates of the ICON Advanced Executive Protection Training Course.  Long hours, challenging assignments a few surprises, and the ever present  mantra “drill, drill, drill”.

Thanks for giving 100%! Your efforts showed!

 

Next course:  April 30 – May 9th, 2012  Special Financing & Scholarship Opportunities Available.  For more information click HERE.

Gadhafi bodyguard disputes Mexican Account of Arrest

A Canadian security contractor who served as a bodyguard for members of Libya’s deposed Gadhafi family says there was a plan to move one of the former dictator’s sons to Mexico, but it was abandoned long before a Canadian woman was arrested by Mexican authorities.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Gary Peters, based in Cambridge, Ont., says Cynthia Vanier consulted on a plan to move al-Saadi Gadhafi and members of his family to Mexico, but it was abandoned in June when it was deemed to be illegal.

“The idea — it was put to rest.”

Mexican authorities allege Vanier led a plot to smuggle Gadhafi family members to properties being bought in an exclusive gated community of Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta.

For the full story click HERE.

 

See Related:

Partners of US Security Firm Arrested For Alleged Gaddafi Rescue Connection

 

 

International Touring & Executive Protection

As a follow up to our Blog posting on Security and Touring with Musicians, Executive Protection Specialist Benjamin Alozie added some points in the international arena that were so good they needed a separate post.

1. The Advance in some third world countries can be more than challenging to effectively execute that said, never go on a road trip without making sure you understand the routes or have someone who understand it and even when you are traveling on the route with a local driver until you get to the final destination always keep an attentive eyes on the road, never assume that the local driver knows how to spot signs of danger, an ambush or a kill zone.

2. When possible and depending on your manpower always make sure a qualified agent or a person you know that can follow guidelines strictly to the letter and is always at the next venue with the welcome party if not you’ll be shocked by the chaos you’ll be greeted with on arrival with your principal.

3. As a foreign protection specialist always keep a low profile and be extremely courteous and respectful to everyone you ever make contact with and when possible be generous with gifts you’ll be shocked with the types of Intel benefits you’ll eventually be getting because of these actions.

4. Make sure you interact with the local staffs and security agents by asking questions that will help you understand their intellectual capacity and even level of training. This will help you to eventually select only the best individuals from the local team that can effectively help you achieve your mission.

5. If you are working with local law enforcement agents make sure you bond with all as much as reasonably possible and most especially with their commanders. Whenever you are working with armed local law enforcements agents make sure that they are part of the people you’ll be monitoring until you are safely back to the hotel or residence with your principal. Why? Accidental discharges are common and it is a common practice to see armed law enforcement officers pointing the barrels of their riffles knowingly or unknowingly at people with fingers on the trigger. You don’t want any type of riffle barrel pointing at you or your principal.

6. Never assume the local security agent and even law enforcement officers will completely secure any location the way it should be done without continuous supervision. So create a means for continuous supervision at every location you are in with the local security agents and law enforcement officers especially in third world countries.

7. If you are lodged in a hotel or luxury apartments always think Personal security and OPSEC because the cleaners and room service people can be very nosy in some countries. I always hang the do not disturb sign on my door until I really need my room cleaned.

8. As an operator in a foreign country always assume that you have already been noticed and targeted by a local criminal group because of either your clean appearance, nationality or color of your skin. Using the opposite sex as a bait to get you is a highly effective methods criminals use in kidnapping westerners especially in third world countries so be careful and try to avoid if possible all forms of unnecessary flirtatious socials and outings with local strangers, limit all necessary forms of socials to only those organized by people you know. Don’t ever wander alone especially at night into the city. There will be ample time for all that after a successful mission.

 

Benjamin Alozie is the Global Director of International Operations for ICON Services Corporation and is an expert in providing security solutions in Third World Countries.  For more information click HERE