Case Study: Travellers caught up in a coup

In March 2012, a travel manager faced an enormous challenge when a meeting of over 100 high-level political leaders found themselves in the middle of a coup d’etat in Bamako, Mali.

The meeting had been organised by the African Union’s Peace and Security Department and comprised staff members, ministers, military leaders and members of the AU Panel of the Wise (which includes eminent personalities such as former African presidents) to talk about the Arab Spring.

The meeting had been at the hotel, and when news of the coup d’etat started to spread, the organisers thought the palace would be a safe place, but it was not so. “This situation exposed a major weakness,” said the travel manager.

To get the meeting delegates out, they used the airlines that hadn’t yet stopped operations. They also used the staff residences of liaison offices as safe houses and bus services to take delegates to Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, under military escort.

“We managed to get everyone out – but it wasn’t easy,” said the manager. Through this incident, the manager learnt the importance of risk policy and contingency plans for emergencies.

Since then, agreements were put in place with a charter company so that they could get authorisation to take out people if necessary, and also with hotels, which is something that hadn’t been taken into consideration in the past, with attendees left to organise their own accommodation. Discussions are also underway to put a payment solution in place so that delegates can carry less cash, and the process to bring an insurance partner on board is underway.

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