May 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2003 Current Issue

On Travel

By Allen J. Sheinman


Where to go for vital news about overseas destinations

Political unrest. Labor disputes. Disease epidemics. War. These days, it seems, arranging a meeting overseas means having to keep one eye on the registration list and the other on CNN.

Indeed, the post-9/11 world is a constellation of shifting flash points, and keeping abreast of up-to-the-minute travel advisories has become a must for planners.

“Of course, the Internet is the place to go for the latest information,” says Jim Dittman, president of Edison, N.J.-based Dittman Incentive Marketing. “And when it comes to travel advisories, we go straight to the government agency that issues them.”

• State Department ( Dittman and other industry professionals cite the U.S. State Department’s site as the first place to go to track possible dangers overseas. Here are found links to an alphabetical list of nations, each providing the U.S. government’s take on current threats to travelers.

A mid-April review of site content found, in addition to expected warnings about Iraq, cautions relating to spring break in Cancun, news about the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Ontario and assessments of armed conflict in various African nations.

“The site also gives tips for dealing with crime in a particular country,” says Penny Parks, vice president, travel operations, for Atlanta-based USMotivation, a performance management firm. “You rarely get that kind of information from a country’s tourist board they have too much invested in wanting you to visit.”

• Centers for Disease Control ( Despite recent criticism from The New York Times and others that the CDC has become too ideologically beholden to the Bush administration on issues affecting public health policy, the CDC’s Web site remains a valuable source for advisories.

Last month, the site posted timely details about the SARS epidemic in Asia and Canada, along with follow-up reports on the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships earlier this year.

• Meeting Professionals International ( The new Crisis and Contingency planning resource was added to MPI’s Web site when the war in Iraq began. Information includes updates from U.S. agencies such as the Office of Homeland Security, as well as from the British and Canadian governments. Like much of the MPI site, this section is free.

• Air Security International ( The Web site of AIS, a Houston-based firm that provides travel intelligence and security solutions for corporations, features a free “Hot Spots” section giving updated risk assessments pertaining to terrorism, political protests and labor problems worldwide.

• Travelocity ( The online booking company offers news and travel bulletins issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as a free search function to check the status of flights.

• Virtually There ( Much of this site is for subscribers only, but online booker Virtually There does include free synopses of current alerts as well as links to consulates and airports around the world.

• American Express ( The travel resources section of the Amex site features daily travel bulletins, including warnings from U.S. agencies and the World Health Organization, plus national and international airline updates, all free.

• Intelliguide by Weissmann ( Subscribers to this service from NORTHSTAR Travel Media, LLC, the parent company of M&C, get constantly updated safety and security assessments for virtually every country (and more than 5,000 cities) on earth.

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