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.