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US Travel Advisories are an International Embarrassment: World Tourism Network

World Tourism Network (WTM) launched by rebuilding.travel

COVID-19 has changed the world. This should also count for the way travel warnings are issued. The United States must be the only country in the world slapping its own territories with DO NOT TRAVEL warnings. The US must also be the only country in the world that includes friendly neighbors into the highest level of a “do not travel” list. Hawaii-based World Tourism Network issued a position statement urging the United States to rework the way travel warnings are presented.

  • Travel warnings are issued by governments to protect their citizens from crime, murder, and wars.
  • The US State Department issues travel warnings for US citizens, and these warnings impact individual travelers, group travel, cruise travel, and conventions.
  • Going against a travel warning can have, for a travel agency, cruise line, or meeting planner, severe economic or legal consequences.

The World Tourism Network (WTN) today issued a positioning statement to encourage the US State Department and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to consider changing the way travel advisories for US citizens traveling to “foreign countries” are currently published and communicated.

“COVID-19 has changed everything,” WTN Chairman Juergen Steinmetz said. “It’s simply unbelievable when a country like Bahamas or Greece is listed in the same category as Afghanistan or North Korea. This is embarrassing and almost laughable.”

WTN would like to see 3 independent rating levels for each country listed on the travel advisory list by the US State Department or CDC.

1. Rating based on security and non-COVID related issues.
2. Rating based on COVID non-vaccinated travelers.
3. Rating based on COVID vaccinated travelers.

The World Tourism Network is urging to delete Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands from the list of “foreign countries.”

Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are US territories and not foreign countries. People living there are US citizens. They should be treated like any other US state. For the US Government to categorize a US territory with a Level 4 travel warning is embarrassing,” Steinmetz added. “I find this discrimination disrespectful to our many US service members stationed in Guam.”

The US State Department system recognizes 4 levels of travel advisories:

  1. Exercise Normal Precautions
  2. Exercise Increased Caution
  3. Reconsider Travel
  4. Do not Travel

The United States State Department issued its highest level of Travel Advisories against the following countries, saying to US Citizens: DO NOT TRAVEL to the countries listed:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Antartica
  • Argentina
  • Aruba
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Bhutan
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Brunei
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Curacao
  • Cyprus
  • DR Congo
  • Dominica
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Eswatini
  • Fiji
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • French Polynesia
  • French West Indies
  • Georgia
  • Greece
  • Haiti
  • Iceland
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Israel West Bank and Gaza
  • Jamaica
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kiribati
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Libya
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • North Korea
  • North Macedonia
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Portugal
  • Republic Congo
  • Russia
  • Saint Lucia
  • Samoa
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Seychelles
  • Sint Maarten
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Surinam
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Tonga
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu
  • UK
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen

The US Center for Disease Control issued its highest travel warning against the following “foreign” countries, saying:

Avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.

Travel warnings are issued from least severe – 1 to most severe – 4. A 4 rating means high danger, “do not go.” Currently, the State Department does not distinguish between issues of health and issues of war and security.

It often uses a broad stroke approach, painting entire countries with the same rating and, therefore, causing false conclusions

The current State Department advisories paint a place like Afghanistan or North Korea with the same warning currently in effect for countries including the Bahamas or Jamaica. The economies of the Bahamas and Jamaica rely heavily on US visitors.

In addition, the World Tourism Network finds the current US Travel advisories issued against the US Territory Guam surprising, discriminatory, and misleading. “The US State Department and CDC have no authority to advise against travel or issue advisories against another US territory or state,” stated Mary Rhodes, President of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association.

COVID requires a new approach, and there should be travel warnings based on crime and security, and a second set of warnings for COVID. These latter warnings should distinguish the vaccinated from the unvaccinated and consider the availability of rapid testing and serological easy-to-administer exams upon entering and exiting a country.

The broad and undistinguishable issuing of travel advisories leads not only to economic chaos but to a devaluation of the travel warnings, discrimination, and political problems.

The WTN urges the US State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a more nuanced approach and work to create a more sophisticated determination of its travel advisories.

The WTN Position statement was signed by WTN President Dr. Peter Tarlow.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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