Travel Alerts: The farce is with us

Travel Alerts: The farce is with us

Advisories say Bangkok is dangerous for Hong Kongers, OK for Brits and completely confusing for everybody

Pity a poor Briton living in Hong Kong who wants to start a holiday in Thailand today. Just who should he or she believe?

First, there's the Hong Kong Government, which yesterday opted to continue its Red Alert, preventing Hong Kong tour companies from flying groups to Bangkok and warning that ''residents intending to visit these areas should adjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel to areas seriously affected by flooding.''

Or, there's the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office which yesterday changed its advice for Thailand, calling for travelers simply to exercise caution when visiting the country's 22 flood-stricken provinces.

Also on CNNGo: United Kingdom lifts advisory against travel to Bangkok

''We now assess that the risk of floods affecting central Bangkok is reducing, though a small risk remains that some of the floodwater affecting the suburbs to the north, east and west of Bangkok could spread slowly towards the center of the city.''

Confused? Aren't we all. Why do the governments of the world tolerate this shambles? 

The ludicrous nation-by-nation travel warning/alert/advisory system is regularly exposed for what it is: a flawed and essentially hopeless guide to what's really happening.

The European Union can break down national barriers, countries across Asia and the Pacific can talk about getting closer, the world can even get together and impose international standards to make flying safer for everyone . . . but we still have these foolish travel alerts.

It's also a constantly damaging demonstration that the world, despite the good intentions of some, really remains riven by nationalism. 

The European Union can break down national barriers, countries across Asia and the Pacific can talk about getting closer, the world can even get together and impose international standards to make flying safer for everyone ... but we still have these foolish travel alerts.

How does it all fall apart? Well, what it means is that, let's say for example, Hong Kongers, Canadians and Belgians might be deemed by their protectors to be in danger in Bangkok on Monday. 

But Australians, British, Americans and Swedes are deemed to be perfectly safe, even if they happen to be traveling with Hong Kongers, Canadians and Belgians.

Yes, it's a crazy world. 

What's more, the alerts/warnings/advisories are often buried in almost impenetrable corners of the online sites run by the various governments. 

And the alerts/warnings/advisories seldom tell people in straightforward fashion where the safe places are -- for example, in the case of the Bangkok floods, you're safe in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and even central Bangkok. 

The alerts/warnings/advisories only make travelers' decisions more difficult, which is the reason why they are being overlooked more and more as the citizens of the world make their own sensible judgments.

Last year, a spasm of alerts-warnings/advisories simply confused all tourists during the political upheaval in Bangkok.

Please get together, governments. 

Work out a system that alerts all travelers to the dangers appropriately, in a timely fashion. 

If there is a particular danger for a particular nationality, by all means use registration, SMS messages and Twitter to let people know if they are in special danger.

But please, please, bring the alerts/warnings/advisories system into the 21st century. 

It's surely time to begin treating all travelers as intelligent people. Remember, we're all in this together.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alan Morison.

Read Alan Morison's other articles on this topic at phuketwan.com:

Travel alert reform: Time to change, embassies urged

False Fear Damages Embassies' Credibility

Phuket Resorts Chief Pleads: End Travel Alerts 

Alan Morison is an award-winning journalist and in the wake of the tsunami was one of the few reporters permitted to view the forensic autopsy process aimed at identifying nameless victims. He lives in Phuket and in 2008 founded the regional news and information site, phuketwan.com.
Read more about Alan Morison
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