Industry Calm in Face of Global Travel Alert
by Robin Amster  and  Fred Gebhart

The U.S. State Department global travel alert, issued last week in response to a heightened terror threat, is not expected to have a dramatic impact on travel, industry members said.

Companies and travelers are not showing signs of alarm, said Alex Puig, regional security director, the Americas, for International SOS. The international security consultancy evaluates customer interest and concern based largely on call center volumes.

The U.S. State Department issued the worldwide travel alert effective through Aug. 31 in response to the threat of terrorist attacks from Al Qaida and affiliated organizations.

The alert cites the potential for attacks worldwide and particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. It “reminds” the public of the possibility that tourist sites and transportation systems—including subway and rail systems, airplanes and maritime services—may be targeted.

No change in travel plans
Puig said there was no change in call or email volume following the Friday alert, suggesting that clients did not see anything exceptional or even unusual in the warning.

“The alert doesn’t really change anything,” he added. “When the alert expires at the end of August, that won’t change anything, either. Know your trip, understand the risks and know how to mitigate them. If you don’t know your risks or how to mitigate them, talk to somebody who does.”

The State Department did not advise against travel to any particular country but urged Americans to be especially mindful of their surroundings—particularly in tourist areas—and to register their travel plans with the State Department.

The department closed nearly all U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia over the weekend, then extended the closures through Aug. 10.

Gauging reactions
Meanwhile, the Business Travel Coalition developed a survey to provide perspective on organizations’ policy regarding terror threats. BTC plans to publish the results today, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m.

“Given these circumstances, travel managers will find it useful to understand what steps other organizations are taking or considering with regard to adjusting employee travel policy,” said BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell.

Agent perspective
The co-owner of the prominent New York-based travel agency is also seeing a low-key reaction to the travel alert.

"There is no immediate impact or cancellations," Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel, told Travel Market Report. "The traveler's individual tolerance for risk will dictate changes. We need to always be alert and aware when traveling."

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