Government Travel Advisories and Travel Insurance

Most seasoned travellers are aware that it is wise to check the current situation in their destination country before booking any trips. Once plans are in place it is a good idea to purchase travel insurance – with immediate effect so that it includes protection for Cancellation and Curtailment.

Travel plans may be affected by weather events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, heavy snow, flooding, and tropical storms. Other travel problems include disease outbreaks or pandemics, volcanic eruptions, political unrest, civil war and terrorist attacks. Information of this type is normally easily picked up through the media via newspapers, television, radio, and the internet.

The internet is, without question, the most useful tool available to travellers in today’s world as it is so quick and easy to do a search for your destination country, resort, and hotel and find any relevant and updated information. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have also made it much easier to communicate information – good and bad. Hotel review sites tend to be controversial but many travellers still rely on them before booking their hotel or accommodation.

To find the very latest travel updates and to check whether any advisories against travel are in effect, it is wise to check the government website of your country of residence. This is a good habit to get into and it should be at the top of your travel checklist along with checking your passport expiration, visa requirements, taking out travel insurance, and checking with your doctor regarding any needed vaccinations..

Before planning any travel or holidays visit the Department of Foreign Affairs, or similar government agency for your country, to check if there are any potential problems brewing in your destination country. For example:

Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (smartraveller.gov.au)
Canada: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (voyage.gc.ca)
Ireland (Eire): Department of Foreign Affairs (dfa.ie)
New Zealand: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (safetravel.govt.nz)
UK: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk)
USA: Department of State (travel.state.gov)

In the case of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they provide extensive and updated travel advice and information on their website as part of their ”Know Before You Go’ campaign, which is aimed to assist travellers and help them avoid inadvertently getting into trouble overseas. The wealth of important information includes local laws and customs, visa and passport requirements, driving advice, the political situation, transportation advice, street crime and scams to watch for, emergency contact information, healthcare, travel insurance, and much more.

As an example, let’s imagine that you decide to treat your family to a sunshine holiday at a Red Sea resort in Egypt. You find a great package deal and go ahead and book. You check the family passports to make sure they have not expired, book the airport long-stay parking and purchase travel insurance. You arrive at your destination and the next day discover that there are protests and demonstrations in the streets of Cairo – and they are turning violent. You discover that your home country’s government has issued an advisory for its citizens against all non-essential travel to Egypt. You are worried and wonder if this will affect you – or your travel insurance. Fortunately, because the trouble did not occur until after you had booked the holiday you could not have reasonably foreseen the problem and your insurance should still cover any valid claims.

The difference is that If you book a trip to a trouble spot after a serious problem has arisen and it has been covered in the media most insurers will view this as having taken an unnecessary risk because it is reasonable to assume that you should have been aware.

Travel Insurance policies vary in their terms and conditions and what is and is not included. Play it safe and, at a minimum, always check to make sure that the policy covers all your planned activities, has adequate medical insurance, and includes medical repatriation. A cheap policy may be perfectly adequate for your needs but sometimes it is worth paying a little extra – just in case.

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Travel Advisory to Kenya

The Kenya Travel Advisory helps to alert all visitors to Kenya on the event of any security risk that may happen in the country. This ensures that all foreigners are aware of what to do in the event of any security threat and be advised accordingly. Many visitors mainly NGO’s some doing their own research tend to visit deep in the slums without any accompaniment. This according to the Kenya Travel Advisory is risky in the event that any riot or anything risky occurring the way out to a safer place will be highly unlikely since trying to figure out the way out is also highly risky.

The Kenya Travel Advisory further tells foreigners to register with any breaking news service that will alert them on their website, as this will enable the Embassy to get in touch with them in any case of a security alert.

It also advises Canadian and American citizens that are in Kenya to call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free so that they may receive up to date information on the security situation in Kenya at any time.

The different Travel Kenya Advisories from various countries also want tourists to Kenya to keep in touch with their embassies form time to time.

At the moment there is no security alert that has been reported because the country tends to be calm and no issues of people fighting is on. Kenyans are very peaceful people.

It only happened once after the 2007 general elections and I do not think the violence can happen again since the constitution and reforms are underway.

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The Truth About Government Travel Advisories, Warnings and Alerts

If you’re like most people and you believe that government travel advisories, warning and alerts represent the most accurate advice for business travellers then you are terribly mistaken.

Here are the key elements that all business travellers and travel managers need to know regarding the validity and application of government travel alerts and travel related advice. Knowing and understanding these few simple issues will save your company unnecessary travel delays and disruptions under almost any circumstance. The main points to always consider in the wake of a renewed or updated advisory, warning or alert is the target audience, specific government resources, commercial relevance and the avoidance of evacuation scenarios.

The primary demographic for government advisories are first time travellers, backpackers, families and anyone else with little to no prior travelling experience and preparation or the lowest possible denominator. It is this group that governments aim their advice and analysis towards with the belief that if this group is adequately informed, then all remaining demographics will be covered. Unfortunately this results in an artificially low benchmark for all travellers not within this group.These other groups depend upon travel for business productivity, management and administration and the more likely to have their travel plans altered unnessesarily due to many government alerts. This is in part due to corporate risk avoidance (in the belief the government travel advisories are adequate) and insurance companies benchmarking many of their travel policy exclusions on that of government travel advice (again, in the belief the government are catering to their needs too). Unless you are a first time traveller, significantly inexperienced or lack appropriate business support while travelling, then the majority of government travel advice does not apply to you.

Detailed examination of dedicated resources aimed at travel related advice and content typically reveals little more than a handful of “specific” resources. That is, someone or department dedicated solely to the collection, analysis and dissemination of commercially relevant travel advice. Most government resources are “shared” services when it comes to travel intelligence and advice with general non-government travel a very small increment of their overall mandate. Smaller countries have no dedicated resources and simply “share” the advice from coalition partners or more populace countries, further diluting the relevance to their citizens. Most continuous travel advisory services, provided by a government, are little more than a chronology of publicly available media updates. While resources are limited in the first instance, it is the lack of commercial experience that constitutes the greatest flaw to government travel advisories.

What little resources there are that are aimed at travel intelligence typically lack any direct commercial experience. Therefore, all their apparent advice is predicated more on the interests of the government (resulting in censorship, omissions and politically correct publications) than that of any business sector or commercial demographic. When you have soldiers, government agents and police officers commenting on matters relating to commerce and business travel, you get little actionable advice due to their inability to put into commercial context the impact events may have from a purely commercial perspective rather than a transnational or political viewpoint.

Behind closed doors, most governments admit they do not maintain nor posses the resources (assumed by most of their citizens) for large scale evacuations from any corner of the globe. Regrettably many travellers have grown to assume that complete failure to take responsibility for their own safety and security while travelling will always be compensated by the government’s ability to swoop in and save then if they should so choose. This is wrong and very dangerous for those with such a belief. For those governments that would even consider an evacuation of their nationals (not very many) they will often go to great lengths to advise their citizens to leave or make personal arrangements long before any government is forced into acting. Landing troops or foreign government elements in someone else’s country is always the choice of last resort and highly prone to complications, even if it were possible.

Anything published by a government will always have the country’s national interests such as economy, trade and diplomatic relationships carefully considered before release. Anything that may threaten such strategic goals is likely to be withheld, including government travel advisories, warnings and alerts. Now that you understand the importance of being self sufficient and discerning when it comes to government travel advice you will waste less time placing priority on such updates and focus on more commercially relevant inputs. As a result, your company travel risk management process will be far more resilient and less impacted by the stop/start affect created by government updates, warnings and alerts. You may also now identify gaps that need to be filled by insufficient commercial content from government sources.

Government travel advisories, warnings and alerts focus on the wrong target demographic, lack the appropriate resources, have little commercial relevance and seek to avoid last minute acts such as evacuations. Now that you too are aware of these limitations you should be better positioned to make business decisions in the wake of crisis, emergency and dynamic events that affect a location and your business travellers. Business travel risk management is a commercial process and can only be achieved with appropriate commercial products and services.

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Stay Alert to CIA and State Department Travel Advisories Before Traveling to any Foreign Country

I traveled throughout the world for many years as a Tour Host for a major travel company. At times our tour plans were altered based on information from The US State Department or CIA. Wise international travelers have learned to follow these government briefings and bulletins.

Recently my youngest son traveled to Peru for a study program through NC State University. There were some mildly disruptive issues in that area of South America, including nearby Bolivia. If you are planning a Bolivian or South American trip be sure to get the latest information and alerts concerning the countries you plan to visit.

At the time of this writing there are somewhat escalated political and social tensions in Bolivia. These are reportedly due to the highly polarized nature of the Bolivia Constituent Assembly process.

Recent protests and demonstrations have led to numerous violent clashes. These skirmishes have resulted in casualties and mass injuries at various locations throughout Bolivia. The US State Department recommends that U.S. citizens hold off non-essential travel to Bolivia at this time until tension eases a bit. Even the U.S. Embassy La Paz is restricting the official travel of U.S. Government employees to Bolivia during this period.

Since protests and demonstrations can break out with little or no notice, U.S. citizens in Bolivia should monitor local media sources for the latest developments, according to the State Department. If you are now in Bolivia, or any foreign country, use common sense and avoid all demonstrations.

Strikes and road blockades are a constant risk in Bolivia and are likely to disrupt transportation at the local and regional levels. A traveler should never attempt to cross a blockade. In addition to affecting transportation, blockades and strikes may limit access to important services and desirable amenities.

During this time, the Santa Cruz Administration and Auxiliary Services of Aerial Navigation have suspended services in and out of Viru Viru International Airport. All domestic and international flights were cancelled for a period. As a potential traveler you should contact your airline and/or tour operators before travel for the latest updates and information.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged by the State Department to register with the U.S. Embassy in La Paz or the U.S. Consular Agencies in Cochabamba or Santa Cruz, Bolivia .

Registration may even be done online and in advance of travel. Travel can be a great adventure, especially when traveling smart and safely.

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