The State Department launched a travel advisory system that informs
and advises U.S. travelers about the level of risk in each country around the
world. The department assigns each country a risk level:
- Exercise normal precautions.
- Exercise increased caution.
- Reconsider travel.
- Do not travel (greater likelihood of
life-threatening risks and limited ability of the U.S. government to provide
assistance during an emergency).
It bases those ratings on civil unrest; crime; natural
disasters; health risks; short-term events that pose risks, such as elections;
terrorism risks; and other risks not covered in these buckets. The State Department
will update travel advisories as needed, including reasons for the assessment
and advice for travelers heading to those areas. Risk levels and advisories for
areas within a country may differ from those for the overall country.
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The department's new system also provides a mobile-friendly
map that color-codes risk levels and displays the location and contact
information of U.S. embassies and consulates. Travelers can access the system
at travel.state.gov and follow @travelgov on Twitter, as well as
facebook.com/travelgov. They also can receive alerts directly by entering their
travel plans in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which makes embassies
and consulates aware of U.S. travelers in their areas.
"There will be a learning curve for travel mangers as
they make the transition from the [old] State Department warnings system to
this new system," said Matt Bradley, Americas regional security director
for International SOS. "Eventually, [travel managers] will have to take
these levels and reassess their own travel restrictions and policies according
to the new system."
Bradley cautioned that ISOS, which offers a travel risk map,
offers advice designed to aid corporations, while the State Department's map
serves individual travelers. "In general, the State Department advisories
will be more restrictive—'reconsider travel' or 'defer travel'—than a travel
risk management supplier’s advice," he said. "TRM suppliers recommend
mitigation that enables the trip to proceed."
travelers may then become concerned, considering that seemingly conflicting
information. "State Department warnings in the past have caused travelers
to back out of trips before consulting us," he said, but "once we are
consulted, we can explain to the traveler how their travel is possible with the
mitigation measures we recommend."