Work trips overseas may be commonplace as companies respond to the growth of international trade and the global free market. The reason for travel may be for management meetings, collaborative and supervisory visits, exploring new markets or seeking new products to import.
These trips are often arranged at the last minute.
Contracts may last for many years and involve large numbers of employees going out repeatedly over a prolonged period.
It is essential for the employers to have in place a pre-travel health policy to ensure staff are not sent abroad at short notice without appropriate advice and preparation.
A medical contact identified in advance at the destination may be useful for those with pre-existing medical problems.
Much of the necessary advice and, for example, vaccinations, are similar to that for all travellers to the same destination.
Some large companies have well-organised occupational health departments with suitably trained doctors and nurses. However, smaller companies rarely have this sort of provision. Employees may be advised to see their GP or practice nurse, but sometimes with very little time for preparation or to receive the recommended vaccinations.
Occasionally countries impose visa entry requirements for business or long-term travellers such as those working or studying in educational institutions. Requirements for a visa can include the need for tuberculosis testing or proof of having received certain vaccinations.
Rest before a trip abroad is necessary, especially if the journey is likely to be of long duration. Unfortunately, this is often made difficult by the pressures of day to day work at home and work.
Lack of sleep before departure can worsen jetlag, and tiredness plus jetlag is likely to affect efficiency.
Extra preparatory work may also be necessary before departure and the business traveller may return to a substantial backlog of work when back 'in the office
It is necessary to determine what activities the business traveller is likely to undertake. What will the accommodation be like and will much local travelling be involved?
Employees likely to be sent abroad to unknown destinations at short notice should prepare for this in advance.
Sometimes warnings are necessary about the risks from eating out of the hotel when, for example, generous hosts will take them to restaurants in pleasant surroundings but where the hygiene in the kitchens may not be of a similar standard.
Those travelling at short notice to uncertain destinations should consider receiving commonly advisable vaccines such as typhoid, hepatitis A and yellow fever (when a certificate is required and does not become valid for ten days).
Hepatitis B vaccination may be very important for healthcare workers and rabies for veterinarians.
Advice on safe sex practices may be necessary as business travellers are often targeted by sex workers and pimps when hiring taxis or even in their hotels.
All the health advice given in the other courses apply
Short 5-star hotel-based trips may not cause many problems, except perhaps a sense of isolation. A good standard of accommodation, however, does not eliminate the need for protection from risks such as malaria or travellers’ diarrhoea.
Loneliness can lead to overindulgence in alcohol and predispose to uncharacteristic behaviour, including sexual risk-taking with other travellers or commercial sex workers. With the advent of multinational hotel chains, many business travellers like to stay within the same group of hotels where facilities are likely to be similar and more predictable.
Illness related to poor accommodation and contaminated food and water may be less frequent on short business trips when staying in excellent accommodation but eating out should be undertaken cautiously, not just because of the risk of gastrointestinal infections but sometimes also because of the possibility of 'spiked' drinks.
Business travellers are not immune to 'culture shock' and adjusting to local cultural practices. A slower speed of doing things, not sticking to appointments, different languages and accents can lead to difficulties. Hospitality can sometimes be overwhelming and it may be difficult to say 'no thank you'.
Losing touch with the head office and others at home can be disconcerting but this is less so with the advent of mobile phones and emails. Many problems can be prevented by employers being aware of the challenges they are exposing their employees to and arranging good preparation and support, in some instances also for the employees family.