ASTA Expresses Concern Over Vague Worldwide Travel Alert

Travel agents can help clients navigate risks and make more informed travel decisions By: Mindy Poder
ASTA took issue with the recent U.S. Department of State alert. // © 2015 iStock
ASTA took issue with the recent U.S. Department of State alert. // © 2015 iStock

The Details

American Society of Travel Agents

On Nov. 23, the U.S. Department of State issued a Worldwide Travel Alert warning U.S. citizens of potential risks associated with travel due to increased terrorist threats from ISIL, al-Qaida and other groups planning attacks in multiple regions. American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) called the alert — which expires on Feb. 24 — vague, and highlighted travel agents’ ability to guide clients in making informed travel decisions.

Why It Matters:
ASTA has a point: The warning might be well-intentioned, but it has the effect of scaring off U.S. citizens from all kinds of travel. Not only does it fail to pinpoint a region, it also advises against partaking in the unavoidable realities (and joys) of travel, including congregating in large groups and going to festivals. Now is the time to remind clients that a travel consultant — one with firsthand destination knowledge and personal contacts — can help prospective travelers choose secure hotels, trusted tour operators and trip insurance.

Fast Facts
- U.S. Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq.

- The Worldwide Travel Alert cautions U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance when in public or when using public transportation, and to be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds and crowded places.

- The alert also suggests that U.S. citizens follow the instructions of local authorities and to factor updated information into personal travel plans; be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions; stay in touch with family members; and register for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

- STEP participants receive security messages and are easier to locate in an emergency.

- ASTA believes that travel agents are uniquely positioned to guide their clients into making informed decisions, and that it’s ultimately up to the individual to decide when and where to travel.

What They Are Saying:
“While the issuance of the alert was no doubt well-intentioned, the lack of any detail particularizing the conditions in specific countries or regions of the world is concerning," said Zane Kerby, ASTA President and CEO. "Vague, overly broad warnings offer travelers little in the way of helpful guidance. In fact, they have the unintended consequence of discouraging travel everywhere, negatively affecting the travel industry and the economy as a whole.”