Worrying allegations have emerged in recent days accusing the popular travel website TripAdvisor of deleting information relating to sexual assaults at various destinations from its forums, which the company claims was part of an effort to keep the site “family friendly”. This incident highlights a disturbing trend in the global travel industry of downplaying safety and security risks in the face of real dangers to travellers. Similar controversies have hit the industry previously, such as the lawsuit against British travel operator TUI over claims of negligence surrounding the 2015 Sousse terror attack in Tunisia. In this article, the HowSafeIsMyTrip team examine how you can research the safety of your destination, and how you can verify what tour operators, online forums and even local contacts might be telling you.
Doing your research is a huge part of staying safe while on the road, no matter whether you are visiting a high risk or low risk destination. Understanding the dangers facing you can help you to avoid potential scams, dodgy neighbourhoods, and bad times of year to visit, and can help you create a security plan suitable for your trip. Doing this research can be tricky and time consuming, which is why HowSafeIsMyTrip can help you by providing an experienced professional security manager to do it all for you. That said, there are still ways to do it yourself!
Use a wide variety of sources
While the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US State Department offer solid, albeit generic, advice on the risks around the world, these should not be your only source of information. Local media is worth taking a look at too, as is the country’s raw security data. Often, a look through crime, terrorism and other types of data will reveal telling trends, and your plans can be adjusted as a result. The US Overseas Security Advisory Committee, although more focused on businesses, is another great resource for security information covering most countries.
Travel forums can be great at providing accommodation and itinerary tips, but they are often lacking when it comes to security advice as people are unwilling to discuss negative topics. Local tourist authorities may also in some cases actively use these forums in order to downplay the dangers at their destination in the face of declining tourism revenue.
By reviewing a wide variety of sources, you’ll be able to build a more honest picture of the security environment at your destination. From this, you’ll be better able to judge what arrangements you might need to make to keep safe during your trip.
Check local knowledge, but beware
Speaking to expats and locals is always useful and can point you in the direction of good accommodation, local eateries and off-the-beaten-track attractions, but their experiences will likely differ to yours in terms of security. The same insider knowledge that keep an expat or local safe at a destination may not apply to you, and as such they may find the area far safer than a temporary visitor.
Additionally, tourists are much more likely to be targeted by scammers and criminals than a long-term expat, as they are less likely to know the scam already, may not speak the language, and may not know how to deal with the local police, making them a much easier target.
In addition to this, expats are often desensitised to the security risks in their new home country, as living in an exotic location for a longer period can often make situations that would be dangerous for travellers seem like just a normal part of life. Asking their advice is a great way to learn more about your destination, but remember that they will see things very differently to you!
Unfortunately, as shown by the accusations leveled at Tripadvisor and TUI, there can be incentives to “fudge” security and safety information. While most companies will try their best to present an honest picture of the security environment at your destination, it is important not to be taken advantage of by the few bad apples in the industry. By employing a healthy dose of skepticism and independently checking any information you are given, you’ll be better protected and able to enjoy a more relaxed trip knowing that you have accurate and verified travel security intelligence.
If you don’t fancy doing it yourself and would rather leave it to an experienced travel security expert, or if you just want us to double-check your work, you can always give us a call!
The author of this article is a former British Army Intelligence Officer and corporate travel security manager with several years experience working and living in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific in a variety of geopolitical intelligence, travel security and corporate security roles.
The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.