Coming & Going: Travel alert for Europe

Friday, October 8, 2010

The U.S. State Department's recent travel alert for Europe has caused consternation among Americans heading overseas. Should they cancel their plans to cross the Atlantic, or go ahead with them?

A chorus of experts says . . . go ahead.

Bruce McIndoe, president of iJet Intelligent Risk Systems, which assesses worldwide danger, says the purpose of the alert was to raise the volume on potential terrorist threats, not curb European holidays. In State Department parlance, he explains, an "alert" is much less serious than a "warning," which encourages Americans to cancel travel to risky destinations.

"Largely, travelers can ignore this," he said. "You just want to maintain your prudent strategy of not being a victim of crime. Be aware of your personal safety."

McIndoe said the probability of dying by lightning or in a plane crash is much higher than perishing in a terrorist attack. "Choosing not to go to the Eiffel Tower because you are worried about a bomb blowing up does not change the statistics," he said.

McIndoe praises the advisory for urging people to be more vigilant and to lower their personal profile (skip the flashy footwear and jewelry, for instance).

The U.S. Tour Operators Association echoes that message.

"We are saying, 'Be aware of your surroundings, exercise common sense, and go out and enjoy the world,' " USTOA Chairman John Stachnik said in a statement.

The State Department offers a short list of safety tips. Among them: Know how to use the pay phone and contact the U.S. Embassy in your foreign destination. It also reminded travelers to register their trip at For up-to-date information on security conditions, call 888-407-4747 in the States and Canada, or 202-501-4444 from elsewhere.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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