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Travel alerts are seldom this practical and appropriate

Travel Alerts: The Farce is With Us

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
News Analysis

PHUKET: Pity a poor British resident living in Hong Kong, who wants to start a holiday in Thailand today. Just who do they believe?

First, there's the Hong Kong Government, which yesterday opted to continue its Red Alert, preventing HK tour companies from flying groups to Bangkok and warning that ''residents intending to visit these areas should adjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel to areas seriously affected by flooding.''

Or there's the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office which yesterday changed its advice for Thailand, calling for travellers simply to exercise caution when visiting the country's 22 flood-stricken provinces.

''We now assess that the risk of floods affecting central Bangkok is reducing, though a small risk remains that some of the floodwater affecting the suburbs to the north, east and west of Bangkok could spread slowly towards the centre of the city.''

Confused? Aren't we all. Why do the governments of the world tolerate this shambles?

The ludicrous nation-by-nation travel warning/alert/advisory system is regularly exposed for what it is: a flawed and essentially hopeless guide to what's really happening.

It's also a constantly damaging demonstration that the world, despite the good intentions of some, really remains riven by nationalism.

The European Union can break down national barriers, countries across Asia and the Pacific can talk about getting closer, the world can even get together and impose international standards to make flying safer for everyone . . . but we still have these foolish travel alerts.

How does it all fall apart? Well, what it means is that, let's say for example, HongKongers, Canadians and Belgians might be deemed by their protectors to be in danger in Bangkok on Monday.

But Australians, British, Americans and Swedes are deemed to be perfectly safe, even if they happen to be travelling with HongKongers, Canadians and Belgians.

Yes, it's a crazy world.

What's more, the alerts/warnings/advisories are often buried in almost impenetrable corners of the online sites run by the various governments.

And the alerts/warnings/advisories seldom tell people in straightforward fashion where the safe places are - for example, in the case of the Bangkok floods, you're safe in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and even central Bangkok.

The alerts/warnings/advisories only make travellers' decisions more difficult, which is the reason why they are being overlooked more and more as the citizens of the world make their own sensible judgements.

As Phuketwan said last year, when a spasm of alerts-warnings/advisories simply confused all tourists during the political upheaval in Bangkok: please get together, governments.

Work out a system that alerts all travellers to the dangers appropriately, in a timely fashion.

If there is a particular danger for a particular nationality, by all means use registration, sms messages and twitter to let people know if they are in special danger.

But please, please, bring the alerts/warnings/advisories system into the 21st century.

It's surely time to begin treating all travellers as intelligent people. Remember, we're all in this together.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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The problem is that many travelers are not
intelligent people. Most have no idea what is going on in the world, that includes governments.

Posted by lord Jim on November 15, 2011 10:40

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I agree with the message but in this information age just who should you believe. Each government will always do what's in their best interest. If there is a chance of the flooding to take over the downtown area then there will be a conservative warning while a chance that BKK will lose a lot of money if the tourists don't come, no warning will be issued. I tried to help a friend that was trying to plan and was getting inconsistent information through various channels. Expecting the governments to work together is a long shot, who listens to them anyway? A savvy traveller will make local contacts, understand the risks and know when to get a good deal, the cattle-driven tourists will always do as they're told.

Posted by Jon on November 15, 2011 10:48

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According from a Suvarnabhumi airport report, tourist arrivals had dropped from an average 130,000 a day to about 100,000 because of foreign tourists' concerns about the widespread flooding.
Many tourists have cancelled or postponed their travel to Thailand.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on November 15, 2011 13:08

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Considering that the FCO gets their information directly from the Thai Government, perhaps that is where the blame should lie. The inaccurate, incomplete, and oftentimes false information from the Thai Gov PR dept., the BMA, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, contributed to what the foreign governments decided.

Posted by larry on November 15, 2011 13:59

Editor Comment:

The same applies in every ''situation'' around the globe, larry. And I think you will find the British embassy insulted that you think they rely solely on government information.

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I signed up for travel alerts though my governments website (USA) years ago. I have never received a single email.

Posted by ScubaNinja on November 15, 2011 15:53

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One approach is to review ALL the governmental (and other) travel advice and decide for yourself. That was the idea behind ftasonline.com. I know this because I wrote it.

Oh, and @ScubaNinja: it includes trip specific email alerts for US State info.

Posted by Brian C on November 15, 2011 18:56

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Wow the writer of this article seams DEFENSIVE about money coming to Thailand.
If you had as much Concern of Corruption and Taxi Mafia and the Government would Actually Forcefully show taxi driver who wears the Badge. Other countries would have more FAITH in the accuracy of information given to their country on issues as flooding. They don't believe it is safe every where so they PROTECT their countryman. If you can understand other countries actually Value Human Life. Unlike Thailand and others that Lock up boat people for ever til death or drag out to see to die. Become a 21Century Country to be looked as one. Try More Free trade lower the CRAZY import taxes, get involved with international trade. The writer is Very $$ focused since it is high season.

Posted by Anonymous on November 15, 2011 23:43

Editor Comment:

No name, no value, anonymous. And it could be any country, not just Thailand . . . although Thailand certainly suffers more than most from the silly alerts/warnings/advisories. And so have all travellers.


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