by Bruce Myint | April 01, 2004

SITE's Brenda Anderson

The number and nature of global travel advisories issued by the United States and other Western governments has sparked a call for change from travel industry groups such as the Chicago-based Society of Incentive & Travel Executives.
    SITE, with 1,800 members from 82 nations, is backing a recent World Trade Organization report urging countries to reform advisories by adding more detail for greater transparency and balance.
    “Travel advisories are too general and sweeping,” said Brenda Anderson, CEO of SITE. She added that advisories can be especially damaging to the incentive industry, since programs tend to be drawn to emerging destinations that are more vulnerable to safety warnings than more established sites.
    Anderson said SITE will explore the impact of travel advisories and work to raise awareness of the problem.
    Meanwhile, at least in the United States, officials don’t see a problem with advisories.
    “No tweaking is necessary,” said a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based Consular Affairs Bureau of the Department of State. “Warnings are written carefully to reflect security concerns we have for American citizens. It’s not about tourism promotion; it’s to let people know what we know so they can make up their own minds.”
    Among the once-popular destinations that have seen incentive business drop due to a State Department warning is Kenya. According to Andrea N. Hugo, president of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Andrea Hugo Associates, which represents destination firms in Africa, business in that country has gone from 30 groups a year to zero.
    “I have to tell prospective clients about the warning, and I’m sure that puts them off,” Hugo said. “Even if clients feel comfortable traveling there themselves, they have to sell the destination to their clients. And why propose a place that could be an issue with upper management?”