Risky Business: Security Firms for Hire

Owen Freeman

With safe travel becoming more precarious, hiring security is no longer just an option looked into by celebrities. 

Opinions are divided industry-wide as to whether travelers should enlist their own security protection, but people are increasingly investigating the prospect, if not necessarily hiring bodyguards and armored cars. London-based security firm AKE International (44-20/3816-9970; akegroup.com), which specializes in the safety of reporters in war zones, said requests for intelligence reports rose 20 percent after Paris’s November 13 terrorist attacks.

“People are much more aware with regard to personal security planning and are questioning their holiday destinations and asking, ‘Is it worth going there?’” says Rory Lamrock, associate director at AKE, which will supply country-specific security reports for $580, electronic tracking of travelers using smartphones and satellites for $1,450 per month, and custom assessments that include risk analysis and mitigation advice for $2,900.

Even the most independent traveler may want to consider using a trusted tour operator who can provide a local contact to manage an emergency. Philippe Brown, founder of the London-based travel outfit Brown + Hudson (44-20/3358-0110; brownandhudson.com), has hired nannies and guides with defensive training to discreetly accompany travelers, charging roughly an extra $1,450 per staffer per day, plus expenses. “We need to cover all those angles, and the angles are ever changing,” he said.

Smartphone apps are an emerging option. The free GeoSure Global app uses crime- and safety-related statistics, as well as social-media-generated local intelligence, to deliver location-specific threat assessments, subject to having a critical mass and cell-phone service, two variables vulnerable in the hottest regions.

Florida-based IMG GlobalSecur, Inc. offers its FoneTrac app as part of a base-level service package that costs $1,200 annually. Monitored by a command center, the app offers a check-in button for maintaining contact and a panic button for emergencies. Failure to check in at a certain time can trigger a search. The package also includes a risk evaluation, itinerary monitoring, and medical assistance and evacuation.

“One of the biggest things a security assessment does is it raises your awareness,” says Christopher A. Hagon, managing partner of IMG GlobalSecur, Inc. and a former personal-protection officer for members of Britain’s royal family, including Queen Elizabeth. “You can’t be aware without some sort of effort.” 

See our complete special report, Traveling in Troubled Times »