Business travelers are exposed to opportunistic crimes such as kidnap and extortion because they have little time to prepare for overseas culture and lifestyles, experts at brokerage firm said.

The briefing on risks facing corporate employees abroad and strategies for dealing with such perils was delivered at a Web seminar by Willis SCR Security/Prevention team leader Paul Mills and consultant Chris Flint.

The session, titled “Best Practices for a World at Risk,” was presented by Willis Group Holdings Limited, London.

Their discussion dealt with an expanding market and associate risks they said are largely creating more adverse conditions for traveling corporate employees.

Corporations need to be aware of the “expanding markets and the risks involved need to be looked at,” said Mr. Mills.

Each year, there are 10,000 incidents of kidnapping and extortion, and 65 percent of them occur in Latin America, according to Willis. The largest ransom demand was $130 million last year, and there are $500 million in ransom payments annually worldwide, Willis reported.

“These are quite startling statistics,” said Mr. Mills.

Other risks when traveling to foreign destinations include climate, conflict, politics and nature, Willis reported.

Hurricanes, floods, SARS infection, terrorist attacks and civil disorder are just a few of the risks that threaten corporate employees and their companies, said Willis.

Some of the most prone countries to kidnap and extortion for corporate employees include Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and the Philippines, according Willis’ experts.

When traveling to such locations, Willis said high-net-worth individuals at the tops of companies, such as executives and board members of a company, are subject to domestic threats or attacks.

Corporate executives abroad are vulnerable because they have short preparation for the lifestyle and culture of the overseas nation, said Mr. Mills.

Factors that affect crimes such as attack, kidnap or extortion “include the individual’s profile, appearance, routine, association and opportunity,” said Mr. Mills.

His company has various security strategies for reducing risk, such as briefs on the visited country and cultural awareness, medical repatriation programs, traveler risk profiling and global tracking systems.

“Many companies that provide a global tracking system for travelers” are able to deal with threats and issues more efficiently, said Mr. Mills.

Corporate evacuations are also emphasized for security purposes, according to Willis.

“Last year Willis had eight corporate evacuations,” said Mr. Mills.