We believe in travel freedom
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Otto Warmbier, whose death shortly after returning from captivity in North Korea has led to an understandable debate over whether Americans should be allowed to travel to that country. But the wisdom of traveling to potentially dangerous destinations is separate and distinct from the issue of whether the U.S. government should be able to control where its citizens can and cannot go.
We believe in the fundamental principle of travel freedom, and that our government should not be in the business of telling Americans where to travel or not travel. Though historically expressed in the context of whether our citizens should be able to travel to Cuba, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has long believed the American people are the best ambassadors of U.S. values abroad, and should be allowed to freely travel to any destination they wish without restriction from their own government.
Notwithstanding the unique risks of traveling to North Korea, it’s a slippery slope to ban travel to destinations whose governments we disagree with or in response to tragic events. This is not to say the government shouldn’t provide guidance in terms of the risks of certain destinations. In fact, the State Department does a fantastic job of issuing travel warnings, alerts and other guidance with respect to virtually every country on earth. Our travel agents rely heavily on these resources when advising their clients where to go, or not to go. But again, we would draw a distinction between providing educational resources to help travelers make these decisions and flat-out banning travel to certain destinations.
ASTA does not recommend, promote or suggest that Americans consider traveling to North Korea. It does, however, believe it should be up to individual travelers to establish their tolerance for risk, and that informed travel decisions be left to individuals, utilizing the tools and information made available by the U.S government and their trusted travel adviser.