Stories about terrorist attacks, hostage takings and bombings have dominated the news over the past year -- and sadly never more than in the past few weeks.
These horrific events have claimed lives, traumatized victims and families, impacted economies and driven fear to extreme levels. As a result, and as a travel industry spokesperson for the last 23 years, I'm being asked to comment on safety and world travel more now than at any other point in my career.
But the tragic June 28 attack on Istanbul's Ataturk Airport -- which killed nearly four dozen people -- really hit home for me, as someone who travels for a living, spends a lot of time in airports, and runs a travel agency that helps people see the world.
Recently, we've seen horrific attacks take place in Ankara, Paris, Bamako, throughout Egypt and Lebanon, and now Orlando, Istanbul and even Baghdad.
But should these tragedies stop people from travelling? It's a question that those who are planning, or have already booked trips are asking in the wake of the current atrocities.
The decision to travel is entirely personal. However, as someone whose career is based on the ability and desire to see as much of the world as possible, I refuse to be dictated by fear and simply stay at home.
It's really sad when terrorist attacks and other tragic events halt travel to a country, especially because people depend on the tourism industry to make a living -- from restaurants and hotels to travel companies, shops and more.
But big and small risks exist everywhere: overseas and at home. People just need to take every opportunity to stay as safe as possible, regardless of location.
If the government tells you not to go to a particular place, you should listen.
Of course, some places should be avoided due to volatile situations, heightened risks, or natural disasters. National organizations around the world monitor situations on a daily and hourly basis. I always recommend checking their websites to find out what they are saying before taking off.
U.S. travellers, click here.
Canadian passport holders, click here.
Travel.gc.ca has four different advisory levels: exercise normal security precautions, exercise a high degree of caution, avoid non-essential travel and avoid all travel. If the government tells you not to go to a particular place, you should listen. Your life might depend on it.
For level 1-3 travel advisories -- exercise normal security precautions, exercise a high degree of caution, and avoid non-essential travel -- it is ultimately up to the individual to decide what he or she is comfortable with.
But before you leave for your trip, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Find out the most dangerous regions, understand the threats, don't draw attention to yourself, and make a list of emergency numbers (including the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa) and keep it with you at all times.
When it comes to your travel insurance, unless the risk level of your destination is increased to "avoid non-essential travel", you probably won't be covered for any changes or cancellations to your plans.
It's worth noting that going to Turkey right now is not deemed a high risk (with the exception of the Syrian border), but it IS recommended that tourists exercise a high degree of caution - and let's be honest, we should always be vigilant and aware of unattended bags, suspicious behavior or any specific threats made against locations we're visiting.
Here's a list of a few things to bear in mind when you're travelling:
- Keep something that identifies you in all your bags, coats, rental vehicles and hotel rooms. This can help in the case of theft, lost items and tracking you down in an emergency.
- Leave details of your travel plans with a relative back home -- information on flights, hotels and the names of anyone you're staying with.
- Make sure you have details of any of your medical conditions in your wallet.
- If you're travelling to a higher risk country, take the number of your national embassy in that country. If there is a current alert, then let the embassy know when you've arrived and when you're leaving.
- Buy a cell phone battery booster to take with you before you fly, keep it charged and bring it with you wherever you go. Remember you might need to buy an electrical adaptor depending on the country you're visiting.
Travel is a the only way to broaden the horizons others might want closed to us. After more than two decades in the travel industry, I have been on countless trips. You should never let a growing fear that something bad could happen, prevent you from travelling. If the government says no -- don't go; if it doesn't, be an informed globetrotter.
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