Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide Public caution. We know that travelers do not like to think about terrorism or danger while they are on vacation, but the note is something that all travelers should read and consider when they travel.
In reality, staying at home is more dangerous than traveling and more people die of drowning in the U.S. every year than have died as the result of terrorism worldwide in any specific year. In addition, there is no way to guarantee that terrorism will not occur in the United States or in any country around the world.
Many travel editors feel that the State Department often uses threats of terrorism as a method of finessing its political agenda. We don’t think so, but even if it is true, you should read the attached caution. Remember, State is mandated to try and protect U.S. citizens when they are abroad and the State Department has better resources and more current information than any of us. So, while the following warning can be disconcerting, read it as preparation. It contains information that you should know and consider anytime you travel (either at home or abroad).
Worldwide Caution Public Announcement
April 10, 2007
This Public Announcement updates information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against Americans and interests overseas. This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated October 11, 2006 and expires on October 9, 2007.
The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.
Ongoing events in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.
In August 2006, British authorities arrested a significant number of extremists engaged in a plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States. The September 2006 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Syria and the March 2006 bombing near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan illustrate the continuing desire of extremists to strike American targets.
Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. The bomb attacks targeting buses carrying foreign workers in March 2007 and December 2006 in Algeria, a series of bombings in Thailand in May and September 2006 that targeted commercial and tourist destinations in the far south, and the bombings in the the Egyptian resort town of Dahab in April 2006 all illustrate how terrorists exploit vulnerabilities associated with soft targets. Additional examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and locales where Americans gather in large numbers, including during holidays. Financial or economic targets of value may also be considered as possible venues; the vehicle-based suicide attack on an oil facility near Mukalla and Marib in Yemen in September 2006 and the failed attack on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia in late February 2006 are such examples.
In the wake of the August 2006 plot against aircraft in London, numerous terrorist attacks on trains in India in 2006, the July 2005 London Underground bombings, and the March 2004 train attacks in Madrid, Americans are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems. In addition, extremists may also select aviation and maritime services as possible targets.
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. For additional information, please refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” found at http://travel.state.gov/.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has decided to cut back on the number of ships that is has on its routes in Hawaii (reducing from 3 to 2). The company has decided to move the largest ship serving Hawaii (the Pride of Hawaii) to Europe for the 2008 season. Apparently the company’s Hawaii cruise venture has not turned out well, as it generated substantial losses in 2006 and 2007. For more detail see this link .
Several airlines are considering reconfiguring the layouts of their planes but turning some of the seats backwards. Doing so will allow a significant increase in the number of passengers on a plane. See this article for more detail .
You may have read recently that a specially equipped French Train (TGV) hit a record for wheeled trains of 357.2 miles per hour during a technology test last week. The speed has only been exceeded by a Maglev train in Japan
For the most part, the test was a marketing ploy to sell the French technology to the Chinese.
However, buried in the reports was a piece of good news for travelers in France. The test took place on a new, high-speed track that extends from Paris to Strasbourg, allowing travelers faster access to eastern France and Germany. The LGV-Est line connects to Strasbourg in 2 hours and 20 minutes (speed = approximately 200 mph), considerably shorter than the 4 hours previously required. The service will not be available to the public until mid-June of this year.
The BBC has reported that Aeroflot, which opererates most Russian domestic and international flights , is teaming with the Unicredit ( a major Italian bank) to bid for Alitalia. If they win the bid, they may be surprised by how easy it is for airline employees to strike in Italy. For the full story see this link http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6521135.stm.
While we are on the subject of airlines, Azteca Airlines, which operated in Mexico, ceased operations at the beginning of April.