Saturday, February 25, 2012

Safe Travel Documents Passports & Visas

For years people from around the world noted that Americans didn’t know much about their part of the world (wherever they were), that Americans didn’t travel beyond their own borders.  Given that as recently as the year 2000 less than 10% of the American population had a passport that was a reasonable assessment.

Today, things are changing.  According to a January 2012 article in Forbes magazine ( over 100 million Americans, almost one-third of the population now hold passports.  That is  significant growth in a just a dozen years.

Some of that increase can be attributed to the requirement that US citizens now need passports to travel to Mexico or Canada.  But the growth also reflects the change in business patterns.  We are connected to partners, clients, subsidiaries and investors around the world.  No matter where home is, travel is required to connect with customers and team members. 

Our passports may be today's essential business document.  It allows us to leave and return to our own country.  It certifies our identity and nationality.   

However, having a passport may not be sufficient to insure  that you reach your destination. You may need to add a visa giving permission from the country you plan to visit to cross their borders.  The requirements vary. Are you a US citizen going to Turkey, India, Brazil?  You need a visa. Going to France, Lithuania or South Africa?  A visa isn’t required.  Coming to the US from Peru, China or Morocco?  You’ll need a visa.   Coming from Australia, France, Japan or Estonia?  No visa required. 

Before you book your flights and reserve your hotels, check the visa requirements.  They can be found on the embassy website.  A simple Google search will help.  If a visa is necessary there will be forms to complete, photos to attach, documents to be presented.  Each country has specific requirements, including the number of blank pages you must have in your passport.  Don’t be stopped at the airport check in desk and told you can’t board your flight because you don’t have a visa.

One more thing to check  is the expiration date of your passport.  Even if you don’t need a visa be sure your passport  doesn't expire for  at least six months after your departure date from the country you’re visiting. Some countries won't let you enter if your passport doesn't meet this regulation.    While not all countries have this restriction, some do. Double check to be sure you aren't  turned away upon arrival.

Don’t forget to make copies of the passport and visa to carry with you. Scan the documents and email them to yourself.  Put them in a file on Dropbox ( or a similar site.  If lost or stolen its easier and faster to replace them if you can present a copy at the Consulate.  .

The most precious document for the traveler – a passport, with an appropriate visa, lots of blank pages and one that expires long after your return home.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are there bridges to consider?

On the front page of the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday was a headline:  Spain Plans to Burn its Bridges to Keep Vacationers on the Job.

My imagination saw bridges across rivers and roads being blown up.  Debris flying everywhere like a World War II film.  Wrong.  The bridges they plan to destroy are not concrete structures.  These bridges are days of the workweek that link two holidays together.  For example if a holiday falls on Wednesday then Thursday and Friday create a “bridge” to the weekend.  Suddenly a one-day holiday becomes a five-day vacation - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  (

Why the concern?  Reduced productivity and competitiveness for Spanish enterprises. Thanks to bridge days people aren’t in their offices.  Meetings are hard to schedule.  Projects delayed.  Just one example was a woman who managed to use the "bridges" to add 14 days to her officially granted 36 holiday days one year.  Thirty-six days became 50 days  - 10 weeks of time off.  Great for the tourism industry.  Not so great for the larger economy.  

But what struck me weren't the difficulties relating to  management issues, projects stalled, decisions delayed.  Rather it raised practical, logistical questions:     How would you know when to go?  When could you schedule a conference, a meeting with a partner, client, customer?  Will anyone on your team be available for an urgent Skype meeting?  What dates do we select for a global conference? 

The article is a reminder that knowing the date of a legal holiday isn’t enough. You need to know the pattern of activity associated with a holiday.  Does everyone travel?  What are the bridge days?  The forms of celebration?  How important is a particular holiday is in the country, the culture?

In a recent newsletter Sonia Garza, of Garza Protocol Associates ( pointed out two instances where not paying attention to holidays and the pattern of celebration had an impact on business, politics and diplomacy.  One noted that the Chinese officials did not attend Economic Forum at Davos due to a conflict with the celebration of Lunar New Year. 

The second mentioned that a firm manufacturing in Mexico didn’t recognize the two week holiday that is part of the Christmas celebration there, endangering their ability to deliver an order in early January.

These stories remind us that it isn’t enough to consult a calendar and note the date of a legal holiday.  We have to do some research, ask the questions:  How is the holiday celebrated?  One day or many days?  Remember  - look for the bridges.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Over 100 million people asking: Who will win?

Some might call this the World Cup finals of the US Football (not soccer) season.  Sunday, February 5, 2012 the New York Giants and New England Patriots meet for the right to declare themselves the best football team in the nation (and the world).  It is Super Bowl XLVI, the latest in a series of championship games that began in 1967.

Adding to the interest in this year’s game is the fact that it is a repeat of 2008 when the Giants won a unexpected victory over the then undefeated Patriots.  Will history repeat itself is just one of the frequently asked questions surrounding the game.  Other questions?   What will be the final score?  Which ad will be the best?  How many pizzas, how much beer,  will be consumed while the teams play?

The actual game is only one part of the story.  Gatherings of friends to watch the event are almost as popular as holiday parties.  On Saturday February 3 The Wall St. Journal published articles to help their readers navigate the afternoon.  Check out the  “The 21 Rules of Surviving a Super Bowl Party” and “A Game Guide for Three Types of Fans:  Novice, Casual, Expert.”  (

During the last two weeks predictions, team interviews, statistics and analysis have almost overtaken the news of the Republican primaries.  Newt and Mitt (Gingrich and Romney) vie with Eli and Tom (Manning and Brady team quarterbacks of the Giants and Patriots respectively) for most mentions in print, on air, on line.

But it isn’t just the US population that’s paying attention to the event.  The London paper The Guardian  ( predicts that this game will have the highest TV viewing ever  breaking last year’s record of over 111 million viewers in the US alone.  Given that the game is broadcast to over 200 countries its estimated another 2 million viewers will watch.  While this doesn't even come close to matching the 700 million people who watched the 2010 World Cup finals, it still an impressive nmber.  

So now we have another question.  Will total viewers really reach 113 million, over one-third of the US population, or will it go higher?  How Super will this year's Super Bowl become?