Friday, February 21, 2014

Stop blaming embassies for travel warnings

Todays big news is a CEO of a "also in tourism"-company and his piece in the Bangkok Post.  William E Heinecke complains about travel warnings from embassies and says it's bad for business.


Quotes:
However, the travel warnings and restrictions issued by some foreign governments incorrectly dispel this fact. Tourists have never been a target in the protests and to this end all airports in Thailand...

... These unnecessarily severe travel advisories are now having a major impact on the livelihoods of Thai people across the country.

...If there were demonstrations in Washington or Paris, would tourists be advised not to visit the entire country? Would travel warnings ever be issued? "


It is a fact that tourism numbers are down and companies in Thailand are suffering from this (my wife works in the tourism business, so I know how it is).

But can we really blame the embassies? No. They do their job and they do it actually pretty good. First of all most of them issue a travel advice and not a warning (the latter is way more serious and can give you the right to cancel a trip without paying cancellation fees)

So what did the embassies say:

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the potential risks of travel to Thailand, particularly Bangkok, due to ongoing political and social unrest...Demonstrations, primarily in the greater Bangkok area and occasionally elsewhere in Thailand, are continuing, and there have been regular incidents of violence. ...Some protest sites are located near tourist attractions and popular shopping malls, which at times have closed or shortened business hours unexpectedly. Protests may occur in other areas with little or no prior notice."

German Foreign Ministry Travel Advice:
(Google Translation, but you get an idea)
Since 01/13/2014 Government opponents block several transportation hubs in the inner city of Bangkok. The streets most affected lie within the catchment area of ​​large shopping centers such as the Phatumwan intersection (MBK / Siam Paragon), Ratchaprasong intersection (Central World), Asoke junction (terminal 21) and Sala Daeng intersection (Silom, Patpong night market). There will be some significant disabilities. The Thai government has started on 14.02.2014 with the evacuation of single occupied sites and buildings in Bangkok. It has the 18.2. Where deaths and injuries.
It is also advised to avoid demonstrations and large crowds throughout the Bangkok city area.


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. See Terrorism.
The FCO advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple area located on the Thai-Cambodian border due to the presence of troops in the area and the risk of outbreaks of fighting. See Cambodian border.
There is a high threat of terrorism. See Terrorism.
Political demonstrations continue in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Some of these have been violent, including the use of firearms, and there have been casualties and deaths. The situation is unpredictable and further protests are expected.

Aussenministerium Österreich (Austria)
Erhöhtes Sicherheitsrisiko für ThailandHohes Sicherheitsrisiko für BangkokBangkok ist nach wie vor mit Großdemonstrationen der Regierungsgegner konfrontiert.
Im Rahmen der Kampagne „Shutdown Bangkok“ haben die Regierungsgegner wichtige Straßenkreuzungen Bangkoks besetzt, sowie die öffentliche Verwaltung teilweise blockiert; öffentliche Verkehrsmittel und die Flughäfen wurden ausdrücklich ausgenommen und bislang nicht blockiert. Das ursprünglich befürchtete Verkehrschaos sowie eine eingeschränkte Versorgungslage sind bis dato nur teilweise eingetreten.

I can't see any warning that they advice against traveling to Thailand, but they do give a assessment about the situation of certain areas. And there is a certain risk of the conflict spreading - we have seen spontaneous protests in other parts already.

Also, they give this kind of advice about the south (and recently about Prehar Vihear) frequently with having  complains of this kind.

It's not the embassies who are creating a fuzz, it is the media (twitter included). Every updated travel alert is tweeted as a breaking news, even if it's just an update about the current situation. Of course media looks for the unusual, new, surprising news, and shootings in Bangkok are news. So they use the embassies advice to create a warning and make it a big story.

Dear Mr. William E Heinecke, you just pointed the finger to the wrong people. First of all it is the PDRC creating the chaos and maybe the current government causing this. As we all know certain people in the background are participating in this power struggle, even if they have shares in tourixm related businesses. 

Then as mentioned it is a media issue. I would subscribe to all allegations if targeted to the international media. But not for the embassies.