Be prepared for a brave new world
INTERNATIONAL borders seem to be constantly shrinking. Residents of the European Union, for example, venture in seemingly carefree fashion in and out of near-neighbours’ backyards with little need for a passport.
But our island continent is uniquely isolated and it’s interesting to consider the role of official advice for Australian travellers: how relevant are travel warnings and how seriously are they taken?
Most of us are familiar with smartraveller.gov.au, a site coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that definitely, and quite properly, errs on the side of caution. It highlights five escalating levels of warnings with frequent updates, culminating with: Reconsider your need to travel, and Do not travel. Travellers can sign up for automatic email updates to keep abreast of changes to advisory notices, particularly for destinations fraught with civil unrest and ongoing conflicts.
Having access to information is one thing but using it can be another. Recent research by online insurer Travel Insurance Direct reveals only about onethird of travellers surveyed checked government advisories before booking a holiday. Where once we may have relied on a favourite travel agent to keep us abreast of, say, health issues and visa requirements, the switch to online bookings means travellers must take more personal responsibility.
This year a raft of serious weather events, natural disasters and political upheavals across the world has made finding accurate information more vital than ever. And things can get confusing when national tourist offices and operators with vested interests issue blanket allclear alerts at the first hint of danger subsiding.
We need to take an active interest in the affairs of the countries we plan to visit, take out the right level of holiday insurance and treat smartraveller.gov.au as the mustuse resource it is intended to be.