Monday, February 16, 2009

Travel Advisories: Politically Motivated Scare-Mongering?

Given that travel agencies rely heavily on the US State Department’s Travel Advisory reports, shouldn’t the US State Department practice a modicum of responsibility in writing these?

By: Vanessa Uy

Like the US State Department’s latest – somewhat sensational – travel advisory warning the GHB spiked-drinks and high incidence of rapes in London’s “unlicensed” cabs and trains, travel advisories like these are more often than not taken at face-value by the various travel agencies around the world. And yet many travel savvy globetrotters have been lately wondering about the absolute truthfulness behind these reports.

Although not alone in publishing their regular series of travel advisory reports, Iran’s state department also published their version of a much-vaunted politically motivated travel advisory report. Highlighting the not-so “Islamic-Friendly” attitudes of major metropolitan cities of the Christian West. Given that travel advisories done under the behest of various state department agencies around the world are not truthful, should travel agencies accept these travel advisory reports at face value? Second of all, should the various state department agencies of the world’s nation-states practice a modicum of responsibility – as opposed to a politically motivated tit-for-tat – in publishing their own travel advisory reports?

Even though in a recent interview, a US State Department representative cites that their travel advisory reports are constantly updated with the cooperation of the local law-enforcement agencies of the various tourism hotspots, the US State Department’s travel advisory reports are primarily aimed at the casual tourist or casual traveler. Crime statistics of major cities are the primary source of data in formulating the US State Department’s regular string of travel advisory reports. Nonetheless, the primary influence of every travel advisory report in our post–9 / 11 world has always been high-profile acts of terrorism. Especially one-time tragic events like the one that occurred in Mumbai last November 2008.

Should state department agencies of the various nation-states around the world exercise a modicum of restraint given that they are the be-all-end-all source of travel and tourism advice / travel safety barometer of the worlds various travel agencies? Sadly, the issue is intransigent enough to defy a simple yes or no answer or a black in white contrast of right and wrong. Politics – especially crude oil industry driven geopolitics – and economic concerns has always has and will be in the foreseeable future the driving force behind travel advisory reports. The safety of tourists only becomes an issue when it is politically expedient – i.e. when it affects the tenure of our elected and appointed public servants.