What to do: U.S. State Dept Travel Warnings, Alerts
A common question we get from our travel agency clients has to do with international travel safety. And in particular, what to do when the U.S. State Department issues a travel alert, or travel warning.
Avoid Information Extremes
First of all, we tend to see responses to the extreme left and right when these alerts come along:
- Extreme Left: Oh My Gosh! I’m not going to _____ now that this alert/warning has been issued.
- Extreme Right: I don’t care, I’m going anyway.
I think both of these approaches are extreme, and we would like to offer a more cogent approach to the problem.
What to do about U.S. State Department Travel Warnings, Alerts
- Raise your travel warning/alert antenna – sadly, violence is a part of our contemporary landscape. And, this violence is not strictly limited to overseas nations. As I write this, some nut-ball is shooting at cars driving down the highway here in Arizona. And we can’t seem to get a week to go by without reading about someone shooting someone for something. So, should we just all stay home? Well, for Carol and I, we’re not going to let these nefarious yahoos keep us from traveling. But, on the other hand, we’re going to be smart about our travel plans. If there’s riots in Ferguson, we’re certainly not going to go visit. So, my point is, just be aware and vigilant about this issue as you begin your travel planning.
- Media & travel alerts – remember that the media’s ultimate job is to “sell newspapers”, right? The definition of “sell newspapers” has changed in our digital age, but the concept is still alive and well. The media will tend to over dramatize to get your attention. So, listen to the information, but then head over to the U.S. State Department website to get the real scoop.
- U. S. State Department Travel Website: first of all, here’s the link. Now let’s understand the difference between a travel alert, and a travel warning from the lips of the State Department:
- Travel Alerts: “we issue a Travel Alert for short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Alert might include an election season that is bound to have many strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. When these short-term events are over, we cancel the Travel Alert.”
- Travel Warnings: “we issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. We want you to know the risks of traveling to these places and to strongly consider not going to them at all. Travel Warnings remain in place until the situation changes; some have been in effect for years.”
- On the ground reconnaissance: once we understand the situation from our government’s perspective, one of the advantages we offer our clients is the ability to communicate with our travel partners on the ground in affected areas of the world. This proved especially helpful this summer as the media was focused on protests in Athens, Greece over the financial instability that this country experienced in the summer of 2015. Over concerns voiced from clients headed to Greece, we called our contacts on the ground and they shared that they had over 100 travelers on the ground in Greece and that they had not experienced even one complaint, or concern. Our clients went on their trip, and had the experience of a lifetime. If they had let the media sway their concerns, they probably would not have taken their trip and lost their travel investment. Moral to the story? Sometimes, things are not a bad as the media would have us believe.
Bottom Line? Pay attention, do your homework, and gather as much information as possible. Then, after an informed exploration of the facts, make your decision about whether to travel to an area with a travel alert, or warning.
Hope this helps. We know that these can sometimes be daunting decisions when our travelers have thousands of travel dollars on the line.
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