Tourist kidnapping and ransom risks when you travel – How to prepare, some recommendations for travel insurance, Kidnap and Ransom policies, crisis management benefits, and additional resources.
This week two cases of kidnapping of tourists were widely reported in the news.
Kidnapping of tourists in Uganda and in the Dominican Republic
In the DR:
Vacation travelers Portia Ravenelle and Orlando Moore, from New York, disappeared after checking out of their hotel in the DR, the Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa in Saman. Their rental car was never checked in and has still not been found.
Another disappearance in the Dominican Republic made news again in late March:
45-year-old on a brief six- day vacation / surfing trip.
And this week in Uganda:
A U.S. woman is now on her way home Sunday (4/7/2019) after her family paid her ransom. She spent almost five days in captivity after being kidnapped with her guide on a safari holiday in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. An elderly Canadian couple in their late 70s were also in the vehicle when the kidnapping occurred, but they were left unharmed. The park is one of 10 national parks in Uganda, where tourism remains a major driver of the local economy. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to the parks each year, since Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to more than 600 bird species and some 2,500 elephants. It is generally regarded as safe for tourists.
The woman and her guide were recovered along the border with the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
MEXICO AND HAITI now top many of the highest-risk places for kidnapping and express kidnapping. (Those two countries have much higher risks of both kidnapping and violent crime than other countries such as Syria or Russia.)
Top cities for kidnappings/kidnapping of tourists?
La Paz, Mexico
Haiti (widespread, each city)
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Most dangerous cities?
The US State Department announced this week it was adding a “K” indicator to its public travel advisories to let American travelers know where they could be at risk of getting kidnapped or taken hostage. Thirty-five countries made the initial list.
“The new ‘K’ indicator is part of our ongoing commitment to provide clear and comprehensive travel safety information to US citizens so they can make informed travel decisions,” the department said. See the list and read more athttps://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2019/04/291021.htm.
For the list in alphabetical order, go to: https://www.businessinsider.com/countries-where-americans-could-get-kidnapped-2019-4#heres-a-map-of-the-35-countries-on-the-list-1
The State Department has four levels of travel that it uses to let Americans know what to expect in each country:
- Exercise normal precautions
- Exercise increased caution
- Reconsider travel
- Do not travel
We have insurance coverage protection that covers every country worldwide including North Korea. We can also quote you for high-risk coverage or kidnap and ransom if needed. The new “K” indicator came days after the kidnapping of US tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott and her guide, Jean Paul, in Uganda by captors who demanded a $500,000 ransom.
On Monday, April 29, two foreign workers in Nigeria (A Canadian and a Scot) were abducted. This latest kidnapping comes after two Shell workers were abducted and their police escorts killed on Thursday, a Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria spokesman said.
More at https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/29/africa/foreign-oil-workers-nigeria-kidnap-intl/index.html
What are you getting? What do you need?
When planning a trip to a nation with some risk (even if minimal) of tourists being held at gunpoint to empty out an ATM or any kind of “tourist kidnapping” you want to consider a policy that has additional benefits beyond medical and travel benefits typical of travel insurance policies.
- $10,000 in Crisis Response coverage (or you can purchase an additional $90,000 in Crisis Response coverage)
- Political Evacuation benefit $100,000 (only if state department declares Level 3 or 4 after arrival)
GeoBlue Voyager will cover you in every country of the world (Even Level 4 nations on the U.S. travel advisory list, such as North Korea), but does not specifically have a kidnap or crisis response benefit.
Injuries sustained would be covered under travel medical maximum amounts.
- If you have U.S. domestic health coverage choose GeoBlue Voyager Choice
- If you do not have U.S. health coverage choose GeoBlue Voyager Essential
- A Kidnap and Ransom policy will provide coverage to protect against financial loss caused by kidnapping or extortion—coverage up to your personal or corporate net worth. If a claim is made, the Kidnap Insurance policy owner will be responsible for coming up with the initial money to provide the kidnappers. But you can submit a claim to be reimbursed for the expenses. Even lost ransom money, should the delivery go wrong, can be reimbursed.
- One of the best parts of our Kidnap and Ransom plan is the unlimited expenses to cover the Crisis Response Team(s) that your loved ones or company will want/need to employ.
Where Atlas or GeoBlue will cover you and where you might need something stronger in terms of benefits and protection.
The chart below offers SOME basic benefits in case of terrorism or kidnapping, HOWEVER, we strongly encourage you to chat live with us or call to get the best and latest information based on your destination and type of travel. A lot of different factors go into our recommendation of a particular plan and we can do this best by quickly chatting with you so that you are assured that you are getting what you want.
Live chat: https://lc.chat/now/9935045/
Telephone: (480) 813-9100
We also offer stronger policies such as Kidnap and Ransom for those wanting even stronger insurance benefits.
When insurance won’t cover you:
Know that insurance benefits will not cover you if you are going against local travel restrictions, professional advice, traveling to restricted countries or directly against local embassy directives. Also, if you are doing something illegal, or are somehow complicit in your own kidnapping or are an active participant in a war or terrorist attack.
Different types of kidnapping of tourists
This is explained fully in our Travel Safety Guide, as well as additional IMPORTANT information that may save your life.
One type of kidnapping is political. To get news coverage for a group or a cause.
More commonly kidnappings happen as either a quick money grab or a way for a group to make money by holding a person or couple for a longer period of time, for ransom.
Where to find out more?
Get our Travel Safety Guide free at https://www.gninsurance.com/free-guide-on-travel-safety-overseas/. It includes articles on:
- What to do if kidnapped
- Preventing a kidnap attempt
- How to avoid date rape and theft via drugging
- Data security overseas
- Protecting yourself against street theft and pickpockets
- And much more…
You may also want to check out OSAC’s pages on preventing kidnapping of tourists here: https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=21732
There are also travel risk-management training seminars available online for both those traveling abroad as well as for those planning to move overseas with their families on assignment. We have actively partnered in offering these course in the past. Also, check with the organization you are going overseas with. They may have additional training and/or coverages to help further protect you overseas.
While tourist kidnappings are pretty rare, the real risks you face when traveling overseas are much more pedestrian (but real!) – See our guide on the Top Three Risks When You Travel Overseas at www.dontgetstuckoverseas.com. (It pays to be prepared and to learn what you can before you go.)
More on the Dominican Republic:
The Dominican Republic is still only a Level 2 warning (out of 4) which means exercise caution.
The most common type of crime is the drive-by robbery that is normally performed by one or two assailants (usually male) on a motorcycle, scooter, or even a bicycle. The assailant will try driving up alongside you and grab anything that is in arm’s reach. Often they will stop, one will disembark and may even point a gun at you, demanding your phone or valuables.
Sexual assault is also reported, including the use of date rape drugs. (See our important article in the guide above!)
Purse snatchers and briefcase thieves are also known to work hotel bars and restaurants, waiting for unknowing guests to leave these items or your room key on chairs or under tables. Pools or beaches are also attractive areas for thieves.
Here is the current State Department advisory:
More on Uganda:
Uganda is a Level 2 Travel Advisory Nation right now. Not too concerning. In the past it has been Level 1 – Exercise normal precautions.
This is mostly due to crime and the current abduction.
Pick pocketing or confusing/distracting the victim while another individual robs them in the most common crime against foreigners.
Criminals in Kampala also often target personal possessions, employing three main tactics: surreptitious pickpocketing, snatch-and-grab, and violent robbery.
Be careful locking up valuables in your hotel room as the U.S. embassy also regularly receives reports of property stolen from hotel rooms throughout the country. Although all hotels are at risk, it appears the risk is greater at the smaller hotels outside of Kampala.
Here is the current State Department advisory:
Other countries where tourist kidnappings have occurred:
- Burkina Faso:
- Costa Rica:
(This time last year in 2018, between January and March 2018, almost 400 people were kidnapped.)
- …and then there is the unusual case of a British tourist kidnapping an Indian man in the UAE over money owed to him: