Government Travel Advisories: Industry Involvement
Government travel advisories are an important factor in destination choices for travel consumers and travel businesses. Tour operators, cruise operators, airlines or travel agents are not likely to invest time and money in promoting or marketing a destination in which your home government has advised citizens “do not travel”. Few travelers would be attracted to destinations in which their government has issued a “do not travel” advisory. In addition to the risk factor, it will usually be difficult to purchase travel insurance to countries which are subject to a “do not travel” advisory.
In the global tourism industry, government travel advisories are often controversial and misunderstood. In simple terms, government travel advisories are usually issued by the foreign ministry of a tourism generating country. They provide a safety and security assessment of a destination country. In most cases they provide advice about legal requirements for visitors to observe, health matters, the contact point for the diplomatic representative and recommended actions to maximize safety. Contrary to popular opinion, few countries actually ban travel to another country. Even advisories which advise travelers not to travel to a specific country rarely, if ever, ban travel. It is advice not an order.
Understandably, many countries which are subject to negative travel advisories do take offence. However, as a government’s prime responsibility is the protection of its citizens, tourism generating countries are more concerned with ensuring they are acting in the best interest of their citizens’ safety than they are about offending the government of a potentially unsafe destination. In that sense, a government travel advisory is a protective advice.
In Australia, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand, travel advisories have four level of security assessment.
Most other tourism generating countries issue advisories along similar lines:
1. Be alert for your personal safety
2. Exercise heightened caution
3. Reconsider your need to travel to this destination unless its essential
4. Do not travelUntil 2003, the global travel industry had virtually no say into the formulation of government travel advisories.
In that year the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade approached leaders of Australia’s key outbound tourism associations to collaborate in the promotion of travel advisories and consult with government in their content. Fifteen years later this consultative arrangement has been maintained. Overwhelmingly relations between DFAT and the outbound travel industry have been constructive and co-operative.
As a member of the Consular Consultative Group since 2003 I am in good position to make that assertion. In Australia, industry and government cooperation has made Australian travel advisories much easer to understand than they were 15 years ago. They are also more regionally specific than in the past.Government and industry cooperate closely when crises affecting Australian travelers occur in a destination. Over 90% of outbound Australian travelers are covered by travel insurance, a central message promoted in Australian government travel advisories.
Industry -Government cooperation on similar lines to Australia only exists in four countries, Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand. It is being actively considered in the USA. The success of the Australian experience suggests industry- government cooperation should be adopted by all key travel generating countries. Both governments and travel professionals share a commitment to tourism safety and ensuring travel advisories are accurate and fair is in everybody’s interest.
For ETB readers and tourism academics who want a more detailed coverage of the issue you are welcome to read my article on this subject in the Feb/March 2018 issue of the Journal of Vacation Marketing.