Beware of the U.S.?
Is it safe to travel to the U.S.? Some countries don’t think so. While the U.S. government has issued warnings to U.S. citizens about travel to other countries (which continue to this day), some countries are now warning their citizens about traveling here.
According to an articles published in the New York Post this fall, “More and more countries are warning their citizens not to travel to the U.S. out of an inflated fear of terrorism… yet the chance of dying in a mass shooting is less than 1 in 100,000, and, according to the Cato Institute, Americans are far more likely to die choking than at the hands of a terrorist.”
Countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Germany and the UK have warned their U.S. bound tourists about safety, specifically mass shootings, hurricanes and wildfires.
For example, the Canadian government included on its website information about the Las Vegas shootings, and noted “the possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime,” noting that they “are generally more prevalent in the U.S. than in Canada.”
Canada also urged: “Avoid all demonstrations, monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities.”
New Zealand government’s Safe Travel site includes verbiage that reads: “Active shooter incidents occur from time to time in the United States.”
And the UK government warned its citizens: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA.”
I recently spoke with Ed Daly, who is editor-in-chief of content for the Global Intelligence Division of iJET International, a travel intelligence firm based in Annapolis, MD, who suggests that the warnings may actually be stemming from countries being more proactive about national security.
Should citizens from other countries be concerned about traveling to the U.S.?
Only insomuch as U.S. nationals should be concerned with traveling outside of the U.S., which is yes. Every country presents some challenges, whether they are related to security, health or natural hazards, for example.
Are travel advisories from other countries for travel to the U.S. changing?
Many countries, like the U.S. through its State Department, engage in duty-of-care to varying standards for their nationals traveling abroad, and have been doing so for years. Most are issuing standard advisories (awareness of potential threats plus mitigation measures) as opposed to specific, time-sensitive warnings about a specific location or timeframe for avoidance. So, in that sense, the approach hasn’t change very much. Some have become more contemporary, noting things like specific concerns for consideration by the LGBT community, for example, but most continue to warn about things like crime or long-standing warnings about the threat of terrorist attack. Some countries are becoming more aware of the need to proactively provide information to their traveling nationals or expats, so more countries are engaging in the practice which, aside from occasionally politically-driven advisories, consists of fairly standard awareness and associated precautions.
What is the view overseas of U.S. security or terrorist related events?
That can often depend on the state of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and a given country, particularly if that country has a state-controlled media. When that is the case, coverage will be slanted to provide the worst possible interpretation. Beyond adversarial relationships, coverage would be largely driven by whether a given media company tends to engage in sensationalism or takes a just-the-facts approach. Given the proliferation of a 24-hour news cycle and the prevalence of social media, most incidents receive maximum exposure and in-depth post-incident coverage. This is particularly true for violent incidents, and is typically true of coverage of a given event in the U.S. media as well.
The U.S. certainly has a reputation for its “gun culture,” which denotes the high rates of gun ownership, the unusually high incidence of gun-related crime and the sheer number of mass shootings as compared to the rest of the world. The role of the gun in popular culture and the notion of the old U.S. frontier as the “Wild West” also play into that perception. The proliferation of attacks in Europe, however, using vehicles, bombs and knives has changed the discussion around mass-casualty events, especially as they pertain to terrorist incidents, but the sheer regularity of mass shootings in the U.S. remains largely seen as a U.S. phenomenon.