“Beware when visiting the United States… as potentially dangerous protests can erupt!”

Can you envision what would happen to the United State’s travel industry if the many foreign embassies posted such a warning on their websites?  Consider this statement…

Tent camps have been built in the center of cities by angry demonstrators who refuse to respond to police. Use extreme caution when walking in central shopping and business districts in the United States. Demonstrations can potentially erupt into uncontrolled civil disobedience!”

Or this one…

Protestors and demonstrators of the Occupy Wall Street campaign are using parks and business districts in US cities openly as their toilets, refusing to abstain from this action. Beware of the possibility of disease spreading!”

Or even more threatening…

Despite attempts by police with water hoses and horses to stop protestors, loud and emotional demonstrators in dirty clothes are blocking intersections and sidewalks preventing citizens from passing by. Remain vigilant when visiting major United States cities!

The tourism industry within the United States would be facing a major public relations problem and decline in revenues if these were the type of “alerts” that foreign embassies posted about the US on their websites. In fact, the descriptions above are representative of the situations that many of us witnessed in the US during the past months of the Occupy Wall Street protests!

Now, consider the fear that reaches American travelers when they read some of the “alerts”  or “caution” reports on US Embassy webites:

1)      “On both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, currents are swift and dangerous, and there are few lifeguards or signs warning of dangerous beaches. A number of U.S. citizens drown every year… due to riptides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water…

2)      “Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in terrorist attack…within the past few years, travelers should remain vigilant.

3)      “…open borders allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering and exiting the country with anonymity. You are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to your personal security and to exercise caution.

4)      “…The subsequent transition of power has been generally peaceful. However, recent night-time political demonstrations and social unrest have resulted in the police forcibly dispersing crowds. You should exercise caution, and avoid demonstrations and spontaneous gatherings.

5)      “ General elections, which were peaceful and transparent, took place on October 23, 2011 and a new government assumed office on December 23. However, political protests, work stoppages, roadblocks and other public disturbances still occur. Demonstrations have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. While demonstrations have not been directed toward foreigners, U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security.

 

All of the above are currently on US Department of State webites. American travelers frequently consult US Embassy websites and see “alerts”, “warnings” and “caution” reports. While the Department of State has an obligation to warn Americans of potential hazards when traveling, as travelers, we must also distinguish the level of constant threat that comes within a country when we see such words. The listings above, all of which are current are for the following countries: # 1 above is for Costa Rica, #2 is France, # 3 is Denmark, # 4 is The Maldives and # 5 is Tunisia. Without asking questions from other country specialists and doing further research, one might imagine Americans choosing not to travel to any of the above locations.

Having spent much of the past thirteen months in Tunisia since that country’s January 2011 Revolution began, the reports of foreigners or foreign institutions being attacked range from few to none!  Yet the above “alert” is the most recent posting on the US Embassy’s website for Tunisia, dated January 12th, 2012.

We have demonstrations and strikes in the US…which always carry the potential of erupting given the emotions of the disgruntled strikers. Our cities have crime statistics which report levels of gun violence that surpass nearly any industrialized country in the world. Yet, we hope foreign travelers use the same discretion and understanding that we, as Americans use, when we choose to go out at night in our own cities.

US State Department “alerts” and “warnings” are simply that…messages to alert us of possible problems. But these should be considered in proper perspective. Tunisia is NOT Syria!!!

Perhaps to someone who does not have a good pulse for world politics, or for someone who does not know their geography or simply has not taken the time to inquire…hearing about the very real problems that have been taking place in Syria is indeed, frightening and dangerous. We hear daily reports of killings, snipers, Syrian army attacks on local populations and the many, many horrors taking place at the hands of the Assad regime. To the uninformed, the tendency is to equate this problem to the entire Middle East and North African region?

The type of references about “safety” and “security” expressed in this video are a more realistic report of how recent American travelers found Tunisia’s atmosphere for travel.

 

Tunisia is not Syria…Yemen…or Libya. Tunisia is welcoming travelers from all countries with a  particularly warm welcome for Americans, as are most countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Always be cautious and attentive when traveling…but also, be realistic!  Travel safely!