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Fast Fast Forward

The new travel norm: coping with the kidnapping threat

Coping with the kidnapping threat

By , Head of U.S. Kidnap & Ransom

Recently, the New York Times profiled the story of Carolyn Everson, an executive at Facebook who lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and 9-year old twins. She said she and her husband were committed to raising “socially conscious” children. For that reason she signed her family up for a trip to Kenya with Me to We, a company that offers what its website called “transformative trips”. At a cost of $4,195 per person (excluding international airfare), guests spend 10 days immersed in African culture while participating in community development programs and living in “rustic, luxury cottages.”

Today, working vacations or volunteer vacations have become very popular among baby boomers and their children. A family vacation according to Nancy Schretter, a family travel expert and founder of Together for Good (, is a way to give back and make the world a better place. Families want to find meaningful trips where they can be together and make a difference in the world.

Despite the “helping others” mission, aid workers – including vacationing volunteers - are facing an increase in violence and kidnappings in particular. The number of kidnappings has quadrupled since 2002, with an average increase of 44 percent annually. It has become the most common type of major attack against aid workers.

According to the Aid Worker Security Database, a project of Humanitarian Outcomes, 2013 “set a new record for violence against civilian aid operations, with 251 separate attacks affecting 460 aid workers. Of those, 134 were kidnapped, showing a 66 percent increase in attacks from the previous year.”1

Most of these kidnappings (51.7%) occur on the road or in-transit to the project sites.2 The attacks take place in the context of ambushes on the road, where aid workers and their cargo present easy targets.



Most of these kidnappings (51.7%) occur on the road or in-transit to the project sites.


Risk and crisis management

Most risk-mitigation procedures have not changed significantly over the past decade. What has changed, however, is the volunteer agency’s response to a kidnapping. Organizations differ in their approach to crisis management according to their relative size and available resources. Some organizations reach out to commercial providers for security advice and technical support due to a lack of dedicated internal expertise and resources.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Check the organization’s website and/or call the organization and ask about their safety procedures
  2. Keep a low profile – don’t wear expensive jewelry or flaunt the latest technology
  3. Memorize one telephone number of someone to call in an emergency (in case your phone is lost or stolen)
  4. Do not carry large sums of money or all of your credit cards
  5. Make copies of your passport, visas and tickets and keep them separate from your passport, wallet, purse or other original documents
  6. Do not discuss your plans or itinerary in public or with strangers
  7. Do not carry business cards indicating your place of employment and title

To help clients take travel precautions, XL Catlin provides access to a frequently updated global platform or “heat map” which offers detailed information about security risks in over 200 territories. Access to this unique platform is included as part of XL Catlin’s kidnap and ransom policy. The policy offers pre-incident response services and provides clients and their staff with vital information for those travelling or conducting business throughout the world. Clients also have access to a 24/7/365 dedicated Crisis Hotline and a dedicated crisis management underwriting and claims team to help if the worst should happen.

By taking the right precautions, do-good vacationers can have an impact without being impacted by criminal activity and kidnapping threats. Being aware of their surroundings and the threats posed in their travel destinations will help keep their volunteer travels safe and memorable.




The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only. Insurance coverage in any particular case will depend upon the type of policy in effect, the terms, conditions and exclusions in any such policy, and the facts of each unique situation. No representation is made that any specific insurance coverage would apply in the circumstances outlined herein. Please refer to the individual policy forms for specific coverage details.

XL Catlin is the global brand used by XL Group Ltd’s insurance subsidiaries. In the US, the insurance companies of XL Group  Ltd are: Catlin Indemnity Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Catlin Specialty Insurance Company, Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Insurance Company of New York, Inc., and XL Specialty Insurance Company. Not all of the insurers do business in all jurisdictions nor is coverage available in all jurisdictions. Information accurate as of June 2015.

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