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Travel Advisories: Should You Listen Before Booking Your Next Trip?

Richard Branson, thinking about where you should fly next ...

Richard Branson, thinking about where you should fly next …

Hell hath no fury like an airline owner scorned, and with profit margins thinner than an in-flight pillow, travel advisories can put a wrench in their bottom line. But does that mean travelers should ignore safety suggestions from their government? Virgin mega-brand owner Richard Branson, he of epic charisma and dubious facial hair, thinks so and directed some of his own anger against the British government in April.

 … travel advisories stopping people visiting countries due to terrorist attacks should be banned. The reason for this is they are exactly what the terrorists want. 

Terrorists put bombs in a Bali nightclub – then for the next 10 years Bali’s economy has been ruined because travel advisories stop tourists from travelling there. Terrorists carried out a kidnapping Kenya – the US Department of State including the word “Warning” in their travel advisory has effectively negated all insurances, devastating industries from tourism to film (and even contributed to making it uneconomical for Virgin Atlantic to continue flying there).

Branson believes traveling to countries who have suffered terrorist attacks give those destinations an opportunity to recover. Still, citizen safety is not a commercial enterprise and asking a government to promote a tourist board’s battle back to the top is the craziest conflict of interest. While returning a country its feet is critical, travelers are not suitcase-wielding guinea pigs for security tests. The role of government is foremost toward its own citizens, not commercial travel organizations.

The Australian government and Quantas Airlines found out the cost of choosing money over safety after the aforementioned devastating 2002 Bali bombings. Many Australians families who had loved ones who were hurt or killed felt they had not been sufficiently warned about a possible terrorist threat, and this predicament led to an avalanche of challenges to the government.

The Cultureur, an excellent blog, brings some sense to this conversation, particularly around the difference between a warning, for those traveling to destinations where consular assistance may be tough or there is persistent unrest, and alerts, meaning there is an imminent issue which can be political, weather-related or security focused.

Warnings are difficult to maintain. Many people are reluctant to accept instruction from the man, even if their mum, government and Oprah, the sensible advice trifecta, also asked them to give it a miss. Alerts, however, are important because these messages promote sense and reason.

In my opinion, a traveler’s role is to support and endorse the countries which they visit through ethical purchases and by bolstering the local industry where possible. Governments of countries affected by violence or unrest are equally responsible for demonstrating a willingness to address these problematic safety issues and move forward. Ultimately, these are the actions that will re-encourage tourism, with the support of other governments. A balance on travel safety and tourism promotion is complex but anyone who returned to Bali after 2002 — I see you Julia Roberts — showed there is very little to bring down such a breathtaking and generous island.

Travel Warnings for the U.S.

Travel Warnings for the U.K.

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