Safety in travel is an important consideration especially when you are traveling internationally, far from home. Are there health issues? Is it safe to drink the water? Are there concerns for women traveling alone? And now add to that factors much harder to predict like terrorism, a tsunami, or a bird flu.
Intrepid travelers and cautious travelers alike, want to make a wise decision, because if you feel safe you’ll feel more relaxed, and relaxing is part of a wonderful vacation.
As a travel agent, tour producer/tour leader booking trips for groups and individual travelers with Asia as one of my main destinations for 10 years, I’ve had to stay on top of monitoring the safety of any destination that I recommend. I am cautious, however because I work with local agents and other contacts, and stay in close touch with them on an ongoing basis almost every week of the year, I am in a much better position to assess the actual situation.
That’s not easy if you depend on the media. Often in the media it’s difficult to find out exactly which area is affected and which is not. Take Bali as one example. So often the news reports mention Indonesia and some people take that to mean all of Indonesia. This large archipelago spans 1000’s of miles and has approximately 6,000 inhabited islands. What is affecting one area does not necessarily apply at all to another. When there were problems in Jakarta, did we need to be concerned about Bali which is hundreds of miles away on another island?
Bali was not affected by the tsunami. (although we could say as one world we were all affected) So to fear going there now would not be based on the actual situation.
Or, let’s look at Thailand. I helped with bookings for a group that is in Thailand now, this month of February 2005. They are on the Gulf side and that side, though geographically not that far from Phuket, was not affected by the tsunami and people there only knew about it from seeing it on TV. It can be confusing on the news and some people assume that all beaches in Thailand were involved.
Here are some comments by Marc McCauley who is in Thailand now with a yoga group:
Marc writes: “In the southwest of Thailand many resorts are re opening and many are also returning to the beaches of Phuket. I did notice that they have become more life jacket conscious on the boat rides around the island and on inter island Boat trips. Although tourists are still coming to Thailand, the general Asian tourist trade is way down in the Southwest Thailand due to the Asian feeling about hosts. I read in the Bangkok Post that many tourists from Asia, are not going back to the West coast until all the missing dead are found. All things seem pretty safe here in Asia and we are having a great time with our retreat. Everyone is finding there own special kind of joy.”
Adding to what Marc wrote, more life jackets were needed anyway as a general precaution—so that’s an improvement. I don’t know enough about Phuket at this time to recommend yet, I generally book the more off the tourist track areas—however I would be looking into it thoroughly if a client requested it, in order to help them make an informed decision.
I recently was at a Tsunami Benefit at Spirit Rock Vipasanna Meditation Center, and saw slides of Sri Lanka taken by someone who was there during and after and stayed on to help out...Sri Lanka was very hard hit along the coast. Here is a firsthand report from a client of mine. I’ll be with her group in Bali in May.
Claudette who recently returned from Sri Lanka writes:
“We did not go to Galle as unless you are part of the relief effort we were told we would be in the way. But we did spend some time at the Beach in Negombo north of Columbo which had minimal damage and we had a wonderful time. Columbo also is open for business and wishing for it. The rest of our travel was in Sigirya, Polonaruwa and up in the mountains (Nuwara, Eliya), These areas were absolutely untouched by the Tsunami, except that they have been economically devastated by the complete absence of tourists since it hit. People in Sri Lanka are wonderful and delighted to have tourists back. They want their jobs, not a handout. Please go visit and help them!”
It will take years for personal recovery for people who lost friends, family, jobs or their homes. Let’s not hurt them economically by not going there, after finding out the actual situation in each area.
Because as a story, the tsunami is not still as prominent in the news, for a long time to come it needs to be in our hearts and minds to help as we can. I don’t see a reason not to travel to Asia, as long as I’m in continual contact with my local agents and can give up to date travel advice to clients who are considering these wonderful travel destinations.
My recommendation is, don’t give up your dream of travel to Thailand, Bali, or Sri Lanka….and of course your support will be greatly appreciated.
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