Wealthy New Yorkers are increasingly turning to hard bodies to protect them during European vacations, particularly in cities such as London, Paris and Berlin that have been hit with high-profile terrorism, say security experts.
“I can’t fill them fast enough,” said CASS Global Security founder Shawn Engbrecht of requests for vacation bodyguards.
Rich people are hiring bodyguards to go to Disney World.
“Our summer was huge . . . on the heels of what happened in Paris and London,” said Paul Viollis, CEO of Viollis Group International, a global security firm. “We’ve gotten maybe 20 new clients.”
Paul Viollis firm offers multiple layers of protection — from security drivers and armored vehicles with bulletproof glass to vacation bodyguards. But in the case of a suicide bomber or a truck plowing into a crowd, what can a bodyguard even do?
Engbrecht says it’s all about intel and prevention.
“The venues [where terrorists have struck in these cities] are absolutely predictable. We make sure [the client] is not sitting in an outdoor cafe at [the wrong] times,” based on intelligence gathered from governmental and private contacts, said Engbrecht, who charges up to $1,500 per day per guard. “When we go to Paris, we avoid the large concerts or venues where there are people in a concentrated area. We avoid anything that can be a target.”
Guards are also trained to take down an active shooter, if need be.
“They can’t predict a terrorist attack, but they can advise you to avoid an area where you shouldn’t be,” said Michael.
His team acted as “sweepers,” with one walking in front of the family and one behind. Each day, the guards would go over the family’s itinerary and warn them against vulnerable spots such as the Eiffel Tower on certain days.
“They’re in touch with people there,” said Michael, who deferred to the recommendations.
‘We skirted certain streets — anywhere we didn’t have access to a car within 90 seconds, they advised against.’
Popular spots such as museums were done in the early morning, when they were less crowded. “We skirted certain streets — anywhere we didn’t have access to a car within 90 seconds, they advised against,” he said.
So what’s it like traveling with guards 10 to 16 hours a day? “They’re very friendly,” said Michael. “But they don’t sit and eat when you’re eating. They’re posted outside the restaurant.”
Allen, a 48-year-old banker from the Upper West Side, hired one guard — at a cost of $7,000 — for a weeklong trip to Spain this summer. As a bonus, his guy was also knowledgeable about the best nightclubs. “A bodyguard is a twofer: He’s almost a concierge, but he can still kick ass. It’s a guy on the ground that can steer you in the right direction. It’s peace of mind — and also an added luxury.”
Personal-security requests aren’t just limited to major European cities. Experts say they’ve seen an uptick in Europeans and Asians hiring guards for Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The visitors are asking for “armed escorts,” said Paul Viollis. “They’re afraid of terrorist attacks in Disney. We never saw that until about a year ago.”
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