FCO Travel Advice Safe and Sound?
Following lobbying by Tourism Concern, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office established a permanent multi-stakeholder panel to ensure that destinations are not adversely affected by unnecessarily prolonged or geographically far-reaching travel advisories.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) produces travel advisories for over 200 countries. When the FCO advises against ‘all non-essential travel’ to a holiday destination, the public, tour operators, travel associations and insurance companies take notice.
FCO travel advice is believed to be a fair representation of the social, political and environmental climate of these countries. However, our campaign highlighted major inconsistencies. Furthermore, unnecessarily prolonged travel restrictions can have a catastrophic effect on a country’s tourism industry and the people working within it, especially if the country is poor and heavily dependent on tourism.
For example, Indonesia and the USA both suffered major terrorist attacks in 2002, but the resulting FCO travel advice was starkly different. Indonesia received a blanket ban on ‘all non-essential travel’ following the bombing incident in Bali, while the FCO advised only ‘vigilance’ regarding travel to the USA. The travel restrictions on Indonesia remained in place into 2004, causing a drastic reduction in visitor numbers and devastating its tourism industry. Bali suffered an average income decline of 43 per cent, leading to over thirty per cent of schools reporting students dropping out during 2003 as a consequence.
Tourism Concern produced a campaign report in October 2003, FCO travel advisories: the case for transparency and balance, highlighting the inconsistencies within FCO travel advisories and calling for a new approach.
As part of the FCO review on advisories, Tourism Concern set up an international consultation group to work with all partners with a stake in travel advisories.
We also helped to establish an Advisory Council, comprised of international and UK based travel associations. This was designed as a permanent, practical structure to aid the FCO in formulating and updating its travel advisories, ensuring that they are consultative and balanced, with those affected having a say.
Our campaign was a success. The FCO held their first Travel Advice Review Group meeting in November 2004. They continue to have these meetings every 6 months to review their travel advisories to ensure they are balanced and appropriate.
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