The 'Risk Destinations' of Burma and Sri Lanka - Holidaymakers Beware

I see that the travel press is all a buzz about 'risk destinations' and how you wouldn't know that there was a problem when you get there!  One such article 'How troubled is Thai Tourism?' analysed the 'risk' of travelling to Thailand and provided a travel industry view on the risks to a holidaymaker, however, the article did not raise the thorny issue of the effect of such troubles on the travel insuarance product and whether a holidaymaker would be covered or not!  There is clearly concern growing about the Thailand destination; this is such an important issue, as holidaymakers have discovered, travel to certain destinations (Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, Thailand) has or could potentially leave them without insurance cover!

It is however the continuing saga of Burma and Sri Lanka which provides most concern (I shall leave the swine flu issue for the moment).

Criticism of Burma continues with the report from Christian Aid that the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis has left 500,000 people without adequate shelter and assistance from their own government - a concern shared by the UN!  In today's BBC News we hear that the people's choice for leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is 'in poor health' and there are continuing doubts that she will be freed from house arrest imposed since 1990!  We have commented on the Burma situation, insofar as it affects holidaymakers, and have called for the support of the campaign's waged by Tourism Concern, The Burma Campaign and Amnesty International. 

The problems in Sri Lanka are demonstrated daily on our news, the latest from the BBC of 378 killed by shelling from government forces.  In the Travel Trade Gazette (8/5/2009 - Page 9), the headline states, 'Sri Lanka defies war and UK slump' (interesting that the word 'war' was used - is this an acknowledgement of a state of 'war' by Sri Lanka or the Travel Industry - I wonder how that word fits in with the exclusion clauses in travel insurance contracts?).  The country's director of tourism in the UK commented on the fall in tourist numbers by stating; "We believe this was entirely to do with the state of the UK economy, rather than fears of travelling to Sri Lanka"!  In this same blog we spoke of the 'unbelievable value' being offered on holidays to Sri Lanka and how the morality of sitting in 5* luxury, whilst so many people were suffering 'up the road', was an issue that should sit at the heart of holidaymakers conscience and decisions!

The concept of the 'Risk Destination' has been captured by the EU parliament and the EU Commission.  We have recently submitted our own update report on the Package Travel Directive debate and support the notion that holidaymakers should be given greater information, at the point of sale of a holiday, about that 'risk destination'. 

We are also concerned that the sale of holidays to such 'risk destinations' attract the real risk that their travel insurance product will be void - who will then help the holidaymaker if they find themselves in trouble?  This article on travel insurance to the 'risk destination' provides an analysis and an action plan for consumers if they find themsleves in difficulty at the point of sale or beyond.

I make no apologies for our stance on this issue; we have been lectured by one organisation (not travel industry) on making sure that we strike a balance of facts - I say; play semantics on your own - let's not gloss over this one boys!  The Travel Industry on the other hand must be upfront with the consumer and go that extra mile when selling holidays to a 'risk destination' and above all, make sure that if the Consumer still chooses to travel to such a destination, that they are travelling with a valid policy of travel insurance!

As I have said previously, 'Holidaymakers must be guided by clear information and their conscience' - the Holidaymaker and the Travel Industry has the ultimate political power to effect change where wretchedness exists - their money!  This is something that the Travel industry nor the Holidaymaker can avoid anymore!

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