01 Mar Travel Advisories: Are you getting the whole story?
This post is from our fellow intentional travelers, Dorene and Troy from Travel Life Experiences. Troy and Dorene left their 20-year corporate careers doing what they were ‘supposed to do’ and moving to lives they wanted to live. They redesigned their lives to work and travel while living location independent. Troy and Dorene have now lived in three countries that faced travel health advisory warnings. In our age of “fake news” and over-hyped media, they provide us with a different point of view about these travel warnings.
Over the last year, the media latched onto a new problem, which led to a new fear in the minds of travelers: the Zika virus. As soon as the U.S. government issued a travel advisory to any country with incidences of Zika, immediately travelers canceled their vacation plans to 21 countries including Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean.
Troy and I spent most of the year in Zika advisory countries, including Colombia and Ecuador. The impact this warning had on tourism was immense, including the lackluster attendance to the Summer Olympics in Brazil. Tour companies claimed double-digit declines in their tourism business virtually overnight. Later in the year, cases were reported on U.S. soil in states such as Texas, which suggests the big question to everyone is: how can we be immune to these travel advisories – not just physically, but more importantly, psychologically?
Of course, no travel warning should be ignored, however:
As humans, we are motivated by the fear produced by the media.
Fear is that primitive instinct in all of us. Biologically, it is part of our DNA. It helps us survive because we remember a bad experience, so we will endeavor to avoid it in the future. When adrenaline is released into our bodies, it gives us the physical sensation of feeling excitement, fear or anger. Our bodies prepare us to react, but are we overreacting to too many things, because of what we constantly hear and see on the news?
Sadly, the media perpetuates fear because negative stories are what sells TV, radio, newspaper and social media clicks; and these are stories are crafted to warn us, scare us, and create fear within us. The more we are fearful, the more we want to talk about it and share it, which then translates to more advertising dollars for media outlets, thus, higher profits.
As a marketer, I know this topic all too well. Fear breeds emotion, and then it produces action. Hopefully, for businesses, that motivation leads to buying a product or signing up for a service. But in this case, news advisories about outbreaks led to tourists retracting from life, instead of living life.
Are we getting the whole story when it comes to travel and health advisories?
Troy and I also lived through the SARS outbreak in Toronto, Canada in 2003. SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is caused by a virus that manifests into upper respiratory illnesses. When the travel advisory was issued, the tourism industry in Toronto was hit with a $350 million dollar loss, not to mention the massive losses in retail and restaurant sales.
The media fixated their stories with visuals showing a few residents walking down streets wearing masks to protect themselves. It created a fear that a major epidemic was happening. Meanwhile, as residents of the city, we saw it differently. The reality was, SARS was localized to hospitals and households in contact with patients, and the vast majority of the over 5 million residents in the Greater Toronto Area were living very healthy, regular and uneventful lives.
The key to maintaining your sanity is reading the facts, instead of fixating on the warnings.
In the case of the Zika virus advisory, the CDC (The Center for Disease Control) labeled the situation as an alert to “practice enhanced precautions.” This meant people should take precautions like using insect repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants and using mosquito nets. In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada mentioned: “take special health precautions while traveling in affected countries and pregnant woman should discuss travel plans with a health care provider or consider postponing.” As the facts and details were shared, it was pregnant women who were the ones who were most at risk to this virus and not the rest of the population.
So why did so many people cancel their travel plans instead of just taking responsible precautions?
It was fear, and lack of real facts to make a more informed decision.
I often wonder why more potent, life-threatening diseases no longer make the news, even though they are prevalent in many parts of the world. Take, for instance, Dengue fever. It is a viral disease that is also transmitted by mosquitos that creates flu-like symptoms that can sometimes result in fatalities. So why does this virus no longer get any publicity? It is because it was no longer the new, shiny toy to the media, like Zika virus was. It is no longer novel and newsworthy.
I am not suggesting that travel advisories should be ignored, but shouldn’t the warnings be looked at differently?
It’s best to do your own research, read different sources, and read reports from travelers who are in these countries, instead of solely reading a travel advisory or watching the 6 p.m. news. After you do that, ask yourself this question:“Are the risks big enough to cancel my plans or am I just afraid?
How about looking at the issue with the benefits instead of the risks? Would you want to miss out on an incredible, life-changing travel experience because you are fearful?
Fortunately, Zika virus is no longer an immediate health advisory this year, but there are still warnings to exercise precaution for a pregnant woman in places including Florida, USA. Unfortunately, Zika did have a significant impact on birth defects in countries in 2015-2016.
Ensure you have all the facts, read the travel warnings clearly and make an informed decision from multiple sources.
Are the risks big enough to cancel your life changing travel plans or are you just afraid?
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