Danger, danger, danger | TravelResearchOnline

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Danger, danger, danger

There is danger everywhere we look. I have traveled the world, yet the most dangerous place for me appears to be the daily half mile route I walk from my house to get my newspaper. I have yet to be injured while traveling, but tore my knee apart a few years ago when I literally tripped over nothing. Recently, worldwide events have taken many destinations off travelers’ radar screens. Some of the notable destinations include Egypt, Mexico, Japan, and even St. Lucia who just recently saw three men from Atlanta beaten in their hotel room.

Most people are not world travelers and most are worried about their safety when they head to a foreign (to them) land.  And whenever the State Department issues an alert or an advisory, I hear a collective moan from travel professionals about how the information is misguided and serves to misinform the traveler as to the “real situation.”

I think that as travel professionals we are being selfish and self centered. It is not our trip. The trip belongs to the client and, like it or not, the perception of danger is indeed their reality. I have been to Aruba maybe a dozen times. I feel comfortable there. I have friends there. I have favorite restaurants there. I feel safe there. Try explaining how safe Aruba is to the parents of Natalee Holloway.

Rather than bemoan the decisions of the State Department warnings, I feel that travel professionals need to acknowledge the very real fears and concerns of their clients—after all, we are acting as their agent and looking out for their best interest.  Even if we could insure 100% safety, what type of experience would a client have if they were always looking over their shoulder for danger? I know I don’t want to vacation like that.

Recently, I scrapped a trip to Cancun based on the recent spate of violence in Mexico. Yes, I scrapped it. I had 12 families initially signed up for the trip and four of them canceled because of their concern about the violence. Their concern was very real. While there had not been any violence in Cancun, some other tourist destinations that had previously been violence-free were heating up—Acapulco and Mazatlan come to mind. Could Cancun be next? Could I say that it couldn’t? So, I contacted the remaining 8 families and explained the situation and laid out my concerns and explained that we were canceling the group. Sure they were disappointed, but each of them thanked me for looking out for them. After all, isn’t that what we do in this business?

Six of the eight rebooked individual trips to another destination (at higher commission) and the remaining two are still figuring out if and what they want to do.

It is a fine line that we walk. On one side we err to the side of caution and end up housebound and know nothing of the world. On the other side, we may be placed in harm’s way. I am convinced that the solution is not to explain any misconceptions of the State Department or the media, but to listen to your client and work with them, to not only give them the experience they are seeking, but one that will return them safely home.

  4 thoughts on “Danger, danger, danger

  1. Ray Espino says:

    I am sorry but canceling a trip to Cancun because of your fear of violence is like canceling a trip to the grocery store for fear of higher prices or getting in a car accident. Seriously.
    Our work of Travel Consultants is to #1. make the sale, #2 to reassure our clients, not instigate the fear.
    Mexico is not a warzone as the media portrays it. You want to see a warzone, I will show you some neighborhoods in Chicago after dark (if you are suicidal).

    Our Travel Agency books many vacation packages to Mexico on a yearly basis, and can tell you Mexico is a very safe destination. Probably safer than the town you live in. Unfortunately the media (CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX) love to slam Mexico with negative media.

    Don’t forget that we are one of the top tourist destinations worldwide, and also we are your neighbor.

    Maybe you are in the wrong business.

    No wonder we are were we are.

  2. John Frenaye says:

    Ray, I respectfully disagree that our #1 priority is to make the sale. Yes that is the goal, and in this case I did make the sale to a different destination.

    Right, wrong, or indifferent, perception tends to be the reality for the clients. That is a fact and we need to deal with it. Were you able to book many trips to Hong Kong in the middle of SARS? Cruises in the throes of the Norwalk-Like Virus? Egypt during the recent turmoil? Were you in the business when random ambushes were a relatively regular occurrence in Jamaica? We were, and the it was the fears and perceptions were real and we had to deal with them (inter-island flights) rather than “making the sale”.

    If you are simply taking orders and making bank on a client coming to your website to book without any consultation or relationship being built then your premise may be valid. But for me, acknowledging the fears and concerns of my clients, and reacting to them, has kept me in business since 1996.

    John

  3. ray says:

    Hello John,

    I apologize if I sounded a bit arrogant in the initial response.

    I believe that first and foremost the most important thing we as travel consultants can do is build a long term relationship with our clients, and not look for short term gain.

    I have been in this business since 1999, and can assure you that if we feel a clients safety is in jeopardy I will be the first to steer you away from that destination.

    As a Mexico travel specialist I do admit there are areas of the country tourists should, and must avoid, but I will say it again that cancelling a trip to Cancun because of client fears is ilogical. I deal with this everyday, and book hundreds of clients a year to Cancun without an issue.

    Why would a client cancel his trip to Florida because Gary, IN. is the murder capital in America? It is over 1500 miles away.
    Same thing in Mexico. Acapulco has been a dump for a long time, and Mazatlan unfortunately is headed this way, but nevertheless Mexico is and will continue to be an excellent tourist destination for millions of travelers.

    Unfortunately people forget how big Mexico is, and automatically asssume the worst.

    The American tourist is not the target of drug traffickers.

    Have a great day John.
    We should keep in touch.

    At your Service!

    Ray

  4. John Frenaye says:

    I just wanted to make my point a little more clear in case I did not in the article. I personally feel that CUN is just as safe as PHL, DCA, ORD, or any medium to large city in the US. But, again, the impressions and perceptions of the clients (no matter how misguided) need to be considered. Also, a lot of it has to do with my niche of single parents. These are typically naive travelers who may be considered more vulnerable than most–read that women alone with a small child or children.

    But absent the ability to influence the media and the State department, we are stuck and the best we can do is offer alternatives that will allay the fears.

    I also do think that CUN deserves to be watched. As you said Mazatlan is headed that way and never was before. Things and times change.

    Cheers-
    John

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