Travel “WARNING”
How realistic are State Department Travel “Warnings”?

Travel Warning
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Tunisia

How realistic are State Department Travel Warnings? Do they create fear?  Are they exaggerated? Are they also a means to avoid possible litigation in the event of a problem?

Let’s look at the case of Tunisia…

On September 11th, 2012, the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and there was the tragic loss of life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department employees. On September 14th, 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the American Cooperative School across the street were attacked, doing extensive damage to both facilities. The Tunis attack was by demonstrators who claimed they were protesting the same film that was said to have provoked the demonstrations elsewhere in the Muslim world.
Certainly, there is no justification for the actions that took place in Benghazi and in Tunis and the hope is that those responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that authorities in both Libya and Tunisia vow never to allow the security lapses that allowed for these attacks to take place.
Following these attacks, the US Embassy in both countries sent home all non-essential American employees (see the Warning for Tunisia on this link)
and issued a “Warning” on September 15th stating:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Tunisia at this time. On September 14, 2012 the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Tunisia, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. The airport in Tunis is open and U.S. citizens are encouraged to depart by commercial air.”

While Americans represent a very small number of the travelers who come to Tunisia, such “WARNING”s resulted in nearly every university and affinity organization with plans on coming to Tunisia to cancel their plans, as well as thousands of other Americans, as well as American cruise ships who had port days scheduled in Tunis. The “WARNING” was subsequently moderated in October 2012 and again in March 2013, yet the “WARNING” (as opposed to an “ALERT”…which represents a lower level of security concern) still remains.
The United States has been very supportive in Tunisia’s drive for democratization since their January 2011 Revolution, but extending such a WARNING has been very costly in terms of Americans coming to Tunisia; spending money here on holidays, learning about Tunisia and more. No other country has a similar warning.
It is long overdue that such a warning be lifted and/or, downgraded to an “alert”. As a tour operator with operations in Tunisia and the only American company that has remained in Tunisia since the Revolution, we have always placed great importance on our clients’ security and are very well positioned to monitor security throughout the country.  We have American clients traveling around Tunisia at this moment and have been having Americans traveling…all of whom have been unanimous in their expressions of feeling secure. Embassies do not provide security as travelers go around a country, rather, this is a role ground operators play…and WE exercise this role with the utmost concern. All of which begs the question…are State Department “Warning”s exaggerated?
We want to share with you some of the activities that have been taking place in Tunisia during these last seven days…all of them in an atmosphere of security and without incident and all representing the real “normalcy” of life in Tunisia.

See if this looks like a dangerous country to you?  These photos are of activities within the last week…

Photos credited to “Les Foules du Megara”
Photos credited to “Les Foules du Megara”

Photos credited to "Les Foules du Megara"

Members of Tunisia’s Jewish community celebrating the holiday of Passover/Pesach

Members of Tunisia’s Jewish community celebrating the holiday of Passover/Pesach

COOKS, where Tunisians enjoy dinners, coffee and socializing, Facebook.com/cooksfood

COOKS, where Tunisians enjoy dinners, coffee and socializing, Facebook.com/cooksfood

 

"Le Plug" in La Marsa

World Social Forum in Tunisia, where more than 7000 people from several nationalities are here to speak about solutions for a better world

At TunisUSA, we always maintain vigilance when it comes to security, maintaining
a close watch on all activities in the countries where we operate. We wish to reassure our
clients that our programs are continuing in Tunisia, as you read this blog post and
we are here on the ground to answer any questions or concerns that you may have!

Helping Tunisia’s tourism rebound…an industry that employs over 500,000 people and represents over 7% of the country’s GNP, is one of the most helpful steps the United States can take at this time in Tunisia’s road to democratization.

Let’s remove the “WARNING” and stop frightening people who might otherwise wish to come to Tunisia!

 

Jerry Sorkin
Founder, TunisUSA
writing from Tunisia!

http://www.cntraveler.com/travel-tips/travel-specialists/jerry-sorkin

 

How to Maximize Your Frequent Flyer Miles?

If you are like lot of travelers, you have frequent flyer miles you have been trying to use and never seem to get the dates you want, or, never get the destinations you want.

I had the opportunity to speak with Gary Leff, the Guru of frequent flyer miles and one who has found the inner secrets of maximizing your miles. Gary not only can help you, but he also generously shares his methods on his blog, www.viewfromthewing.com  and also on his website, http://bookyouraward.com/

I had the pleasure of listening to Gary’s talk at Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s January 2013 Summit for the magazine’s “Top Travel Specialists”.

Gary Leff speaking at the Conde Nast Traveler "Top Specialists" Summit.

Gary was good enough to take some time to speak to us and we are happy to share this brief video with you!  Click below to hear Gary…

We know Gary has been able to help many people. Hopefully, he can turn your miles into more than you might imagine!

Happy Travels!

Jerry Sorkin, Founder of TunisUSA and Iconic Journeys Worldwide

Words and Images Can Be Very Powerful!!!

Jerry Sorkin, speaking at The Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. February 2013

 

The images and words the media chooses to use to describe a situation can create fear, distort and take a situation completely out of context. In today’s world of blogs, Facebook, experienced journalism and the many services that encourage “I-Reports”, there is no way to control how images posted from around the world at the push of a button convey reality amidst this myriad of stimuli.

As one who lives much of the year in Tunisia, where the so-called “Arab Spring” Revolution began, and also travels widely in the Middle East and North Africa, I am constantly amazed at the way Tunisia is described in the U.S. media. It is not featured frequently, but when it is, there is seldom the effort to explain the differences of what is taking place in Tunisia’s “Revolution” compared to the “revolutions” in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Such distinctions are particularly lacking when it comes to daily life in Tunisia and how it is described.

When a demonstration with thousands of attendees takes place against the government on the main street in Tunis, two blocks away, Tunisians can be sitting in cafes, shopping in Zara or simply continuing their daily activities. Think about it?  If you are going to hold a demonstration to protest against some government policy (which Tunisia’s newfound freedoms since January 2011 have allowed!), would you hold your demonstration on some quiet suburban street, or on the main street of the Prime Minister or Ministry of Interior where protests will be heard and media will gather?

“Safety” and “security” are issues that determine whether foreign investment will come to a country. Tourism will decline if perceptions are that “safety” and “security” or lacking! Foreign investment likes to see tourism, as it suggests a level of security that foreign investment welcomes. So, as many countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to suffer from dramatic declines in tourism and Americans continue to read September and October 2012 “Warnings” from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, it is important that information still be communicated to people to give them a more realistic sense of what is “safe” and what is “secure”.

We decided to let you see images that have been used in recent media to describe “revolution”. You decide if “revolution” and the fear factor that words and images can bring, are commensurate with all the photos we are posting, herein. Perhaps even more important, is the report “from an American family on the front lines” of Tunisia a barometer of reality!

One has to decide if using words such as “revolution” vary from place to place and if images and other powerful words can create their own distortion?

An American Family in Tunisia…

Jerry Sorkin’s involvement with Tunisia dates back three decades. He lives much of the year in Tunis, Tunisia. Since July 2010, he has served as President of the American Tunisian Association (www.americantunisianassociation.com) . The views expressed are his own.