After an extremely long and cold winter, most, if not all of us, are wondering when Spring is finally going to arrive. For those individuals who are anxious to put down the snow shovels and pack away the winter attire, a trip to a warmer climate might be what is needed to shake off the winter blues. But, before you and your family head out on a vacation getaway, there are travel precautions and safety measures you need to consider.
Recent media reports have shed light on the growing safety concerns regarding popular travel destinations. Resort towns such as Mexico’s Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, have seen an increase in crimes being committed against tourists. Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to U.S. tourists which prompted numerous cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian to cancel off shore excursions involving ferries to Cozumel. This travel warning was the result of a detonated explosive device onboard a tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen. Injuries were reported. Subsequently. two more explosive devices (not discharged) were found attached to another ferry that traveled between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.
Amid these increasing safety concerns, you may find yourself asking how can I stay informed of the potential risks when traveling to a certain area? One of the best options is to utilize the information provided by the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. The Bureau’s main objective is to provide safety, security and services to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. The Bureau’s website can be an invaluable resource that can help keep you and your family safe by providing current conditions within a region. These conditions can include alerts such as an increase in robberies or assaults being carried out on tourists or information regarding upcoming political elections that may lead to civil unrest. The Bureau of Consular Affairs will provide the following advisory levels that should be considered before traveling to any area:
• Exercise normal precautions when traveling
• Exercise increased caution when traveling
• Reconsider travel
• Do not travel
These advisories are in place to help you make an informed decision as to the potential risks while vacationing. In addition, the Bureau of Consular Affairs also offers a free service to U.S. citizens and nationals by offering enrollment in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (also referred to as STEP). STEP allows travelers to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The benefits to this program are:
• Allows you to receive information from the Embassy or Consulate about safety conditions for your destination.
• Allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you should there be an emergency such as, a natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
• Allows family and friends to get in touch with you in an emergency.
It is also recommended following the U.S. Department of State on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates on travel conditions and possible warnings.
So finally, you’ve done your research, your destination has been selected, travel arrangements have been made and you’re on your way to having your toes in the sand. But, be careful not to throw caution to the wind as soon as your plane lands. It’s sometimes easy to forget the safety measures that need to be adhered to when you’re in a setting that promotes relaxation and fun. A false sense of security can be disastrous. Be sure to remain vigilant throughout the duration of your vacation to avoid being victimized. These simple reminders can help you return safely from your travels:
• Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs and casinos.
• Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or using ATM’s.
• Avoid being away from your hotel or resort after dark.
• Do not display signs of wealth by wearing expensive jewelry.
• Carry emergency phones numbers for Regional U.S. Embassy or Consulate Offices.
When vacationing outside the U.S., personal safety needs to be priority one from the initial planning stages and remain continuous during your getaway. Maintaining awareness of your surroundings, especially in an unfamiliar setting, can decrease the chances of being victimized. Having a contingency plan in place for emergency situations is crucial. Just remember…plan accordingly, stay informed, always be watchful and most importantly, happy traveling!
For more information regarding safety and security related matters, please contact INTEGRITY Security Consulting & Investigations.
Beth Sawinski | Director | Client Relations