Heightened tensions between the United States and Iran; political unrest in countries including Hong Kong and Chile; the wildfires in Australia, these are crisis areas to be aware of to ensure client safety.
Your clients should not have the attitude, “It can’t happen to me.” Although you should provide them with accurate information, it should be presented in such a way that it doesn’t instill fear.
“It’s important to realize the psychological aspect of any time you go out of your comfort zone, the human tendency is to find a way out of it,” explains Susan Farewell, founder/owner, Farewell Travels, a travel design firm based in CT. “I always address these things at the beginning of the conversation as I want to nip any fear in the bud.”
The first step in the process, though, is to get all the facts. “My feeling is the news is like the keyhole through a door. You don’t see the whole context or get the whole story,” describes Farewell. “The job of a travel consultant is to drill down and do the research for the client. To roll up their sleeves and really scrutinize what is going on in the destination and inform the client to the best of their ability.”
Not just natural disasters and political unrest, but crime can happen anywhere, and that should be communicated to your clients. They must be aware of their surroundings and use common sense. They should never let their guard down, not even in the lobby of their hotel.
How do you keep your clients safe? Here are a few tips.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
STEP, a free service provided by the U.S. Department of State, ensures that all Americans traveling or living abroad stay safe. It also sends alerts to Americans about the countries they are traveling to. STEP helps the U.S. Embassy contact those enrolled in case of an emergency, be it a natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. Click here for more information.
The U.S. State Department is an invaluable resource. There is a search engine on its site with information on visas, vaccinations and entry and exit requirements. Another useful site is USEmbassy.gov that includes a list of U.S. embassies, consulates and other offices.
Does your client have adequate insurance coverage? Be sure they check their U.S. health insurance policy to see if it covers medical expenses abroad. A policy that includes medical evacuations is a good idea. “I am a big advocate of trip insurance because anything can happen at any age,” says Farewell.
Myrna Reyes, vacation specialist, Dream Vacations, a CruiseOne company, is a proponent of travel insurance. “Never ever leave home without insurance,” she recommends.
Know Where You Are Going
Reyes, as well as her colleagues at Dream Vacations, suggest reputable places to have meals and tour companies to use. “There are also lots of great apps such as GPS My City that will allow you to read up and view local area maps prior to your visit. I have also been known to add my consumers onto my WhatsApp as a contact so that they can reach me when traveling overseas,” says Reyes.
Tell your clients to notate the address of their hotel in both English and the native tongue of the destination they are visiting.
If your clients are traveling in a group, recommend they have a meeting place in case of an emergency.
Copies of Docs
Be sure your clients make copies of their passports, all credit cards, driver’s licenses, and anything else they have in their wallet. Farewell asks for scanned copies of passports as if they are to get lost; she can help them get a new one. All copies should also be left with a relative or friend who is easily accessible in case of a mishap or emergency.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC is the United States’ health protection agency and is a great resource for overseas travel. Advise your clients to check the CDC website for any health precautions in the countries they plan to visit.
“I also recommend that my clients are up-to-date with their tetanus and flu shots. These are worthwhile precautions that are empowering for a client,” adds Farewell.