October, the Department of State added a new section on tourism safety to all of
information pages. This addition
provides information about the tourism infrastructure of each country, and its ability
to provide emergency services to foreign visitors. The Department also
launched a new adventure travel
information page, acknowledging the
higher-risk activities increasingly popular with travelers. It is
increasingly common for travelers to venture off the beaten path, and to
indulge in adventure travel. Accordingly, security managers should consider
this new language when briefing their personnel prior to travel, as well as
when formulating organizational risk protocols related to travel
FOCUS ON ADVENTURE TRAVEL?
As more people travel internationally each
year, many engage in riskier activities than the traditional sightseeing and
shopping itineraries of old. This goes for independent travelers as well as those
who take advantage of a business trip, study abroad program, or international
research opportunity to go off the beaten track and experience adventure
tourism in their free time. Adventure
travel includes activities with a greater degree of risk – and often, greater
n – than that posed by typical tourist activities. Examples
include mountain biking, water sports, bungee jumping, safaris, and surfing. While
the number of non-natural deaths of U.S. citizens
overseas is generally declining, drowning and road accidents continue to
be some of the most common causes of death for U.S. citizens abroad. Adventure
travel activities like water sports and off-roading may heighten these risks,
increasing the importance of improved traveler awareness.
HOW SHOULD I READ THE NEW
new language is supplemental—it does not replace any existing resources.
Rather, it complements existing resources such as Travel Advisories, which give
standardized levels of travel advice for every destination around the world, and
tailored information the State Department gives other types of travelers, such
as cruise ship
passengers, students, or travelers with
disabilities. This new tourism safety information is distinct from Travel
Advisories, which the Department already bases on a comprehensive assessment of
established risk indicators (i.e. crime, terrorism, kidnapping, civil unrest,
natural disasters, health, and other potential risks like those related to
adventure travel) collected from a range of publicly available information and
assessments by our embassies and consulates. The information also takes into
account decisions made to protect the safety of U.S. government personnel
overseas, providing independent travelers with the same basic safety
information the government gives its employees. Importantly, the analysis proceeds
without regard to political or economic considerations.
The information considers standardized and
objective factors to determine the tourism safety advice for each country,
describing safety and security concerns without comparing one country against
another. While the language has been adapted to reflect the situation in each
country, the language generally touches on a few common issues:
Regulation: Does the host government regulate the tourist industry? Are
there standardized safety and security inspections? Is there an enforcement
mechanism? Participation in hazardous activities should not mean ignoring
obvious safety issues.
Notification: Will travelers understand when they may be
participating in a hazardous activity? Is the signage adequate? Is there
adequately trained staff around for supervision? Even travelers up for an
adventure will still want to know when they have reached the area where they
need to pay more attention.
Capabilities: Adventure can quickly turn into
misadventure. In the event of an injury, how available is adequate medical
care? Will an injured participant need to travel far for medical care? If the
adventure activities tend to be located outside of a well-traveled path (e.g.
capitals and other large cities, beaches and other resort-type areas), will
travelers face major obstacles in obtaining medical care?
Recommendation: Should travelers consider purchasing travel
insurance prior to participating in hazardous activities abroad? (Hint: the
answer here is always “yes!”)
Additionally, remember that healthcare in many countries operates on a
pay-first basis. Even the promise of the best insurance reimbursements around
may not convince a provider to render services in an area where up-front
payment is a requirement. Also, remember that not every insurance policy is the same, and some policies have exclusions specifically for hazardous activities; check your policy against your activity to ensure appropriate coverage.
BUT WHAT ABOUT NON-U.S.
U.S. Department of State obviously has a mandate to ensure that U.S. citizens
abroad have the best information possible to make informed decisions about
their own safety and security. However, nothing prohibits non-U.S. citizens
from following the same advice. OSAC’s mandate is to provide information to
U.S.-based private-sector organizations, regardless of the citizenship of their
employees, students, volunteers, or other personnel. Just as OSAC suggests its
members consider advice not just from the U.S. Government but also from other trustworthy partner nations when creating
their travel-security protocols, non-U.S. personnel will benefit from
considering these new additions to the State Department stable of products.
OSAC has published dozens of products in its Travelers Toolkit to help all
travelers plan for safety and security, several of which touch on adventure
travel (e.g. Adventure Tourism
Concerns: Bolivia, Best Practices for a
Safe Safari, and
When Wildlife Attacks).
OSAC is currently developing further reporting in the Adventure Tourism
Concerns series as well.
is happy to help U.S. private-sector security managers considering how to add
adventure travel provisions to their protocols. Contact your OSAC analyst to
discuss further on a global, regional, or country-specific basis.
mandate does not extend to the traveling public. However, the Department of
State provides a free service to independent travelers with questions about
this or any other security issue. In an emergency, the traveling public can contact
the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate, or call 1-888-407-4747 from the U.S. & Canada, or +1-202-501-4444
from anywhere else.