The truth about government travel advisories, warnings and alerts
If you’re like most people and you believe that government travel advisories, warning and alerts represent the most accurate advice for business travellers then you are terribly mistaken.
Here are the key elements that all business travellers and travel managers need to know regarding the validity and application of government travel alerts and travel related advice. Knowing and understanding these few simple issues will save your company unnecessary travel delays and disruptions under almost any circumstance. The main points to always consider in the wake of a renewed or updated advisory, warning or alert is the target audience, specific government resources, commercial relevance and the avoidance of evacuation scenarios.
The primary demographic for government advisories are first time travellers, backpackers, families and anyone else with little to no prior travelling experience and preparation or the lowest possible denominator. It is this group that governments aim their advice and analysis towards with the belief that if this group is adequately informed, then all remaining demographics will be covered. Unfortunately this results in an artificially low benchmark for all travellers not within this group.These other groups depend upon travel for business productivity, management and administration and the more likely to have their travel plans altered unnessesarily due to many government alerts. This is in part due to corporate risk avoidance (in the belief the government travel advisories are adequate) and insurance companies benchmarking many of their travel policy exclusions on that of government travel advice (again, in the belief the government are catering to their needs too). Unless you are a first time traveller, significantly inexperienced or lack appropriate business support while travelling, then the majority of government travel advice does not apply to you.
Detailed examination of dedicated resources aimed at travel related advice and content typically reveals little more than a handful of “specific” resources. That is, someone or department dedicated solely to the collection, analysis and dissemination of commercially relevant travel advice. Most government resources are “shared” services when it comes to travel intelligence and advice with general non-government travel a very small increment of their overall mandate. Smaller countries have no dedicated resources and simply “share” the advice from coalition partners or more populace countries, further diluting the relevance to their citizens. Most continuous travel advisory services, provided by a government, are little more than a chronology of publicly available media updates. While resources are limited in the first instance, it is the lack of commercial experience that constitutes the greatest flaw to government travel advisories.
What little resources there are that are aimed at travel intelligence typically lack any direct commercial experience. Therefore, all their apparent advice is predicated more on the interests of the government (resulting in censorship, omissions and politically correct publications) than that of any business sector or commercial demographic. When you have soldiers, government agents and police officers commenting on matters relating to commerce and business travel, you get little actionable advice due to their inability to put into commercial context the impact events may have from a purely commercial perspective rather than a transnational or political viewpoint.
Behind closed doors, most governments admit they do not maintain nor posses the resources (assumed by most of their citizens) for large scale evacuations from any corner of the globe. Regrettably many travellers have grown to assume that complete failure to take responsibility for their own safety and security while travelling will always be compensated by the government’s ability to swoop in and save then if they should so choose. This is wrong and very dangerous for those with such a belief. For those governments that would even consider an evacuation of their nationals (not very many) they will often go to great lengths to advise their citizens to leave or make personal arrangements long before any government is forced into acting. Landing troops or foreign government elements in someone else’s country is always the choice of last resort and highly prone to complications, even if it were possible.
Anything published by a government will always have the country’s national interests such as economy, trade and diplomatic relationships carefully considered before release. Anything that may threaten such strategic goals is likely to be withheld, including government travel advisories, warnings and alerts. Now that you understand the importance of being self sufficient and discerning when it comes to government travel advice you will waste less time placing priority on such updates and focus on more commercially relevant inputs. As a result, your company travel risk management process will be far more resilient and less impacted by the stop/start affect created by government updates, warnings and alerts. You may also now identify gaps that need to be filled by insufficient commercial content from government sources.
Government travel advisories, warnings and alerts focus on the wrong target demographic, lack the appropriate resources, have little commercial relevance and seek to avoid last minute acts such as evacuations. Now that you too are aware of these limitations you should be better positioned to make business decisions in the wake of crisis, emergency and dynamic events that affect a location and your business travellers. Business travel risk management is a commercial process and can only be achieved with appropriate commercial products and services.