The recent terrorist attacks on Mumbai’s popular tourist sites leads to the question, “How safe are Americans overseas?” According to the CNN report I heard this Saturday morning, the grim answer is, “not very.”
Veteran travel advisors have been through this before; through the past few decades, U.S. citizens have been the targets of attacks, simply because they are American.
What can you do to reassure your clients that they’ll be as safe as possible when traveling to exotic locations? The first measure is to use suppliers that you trust. The big-name tour operators are constantly monitoring the security of their guests. In fact, it’s one of their highest priorities. When on land, it’s vital that you put your clients only in the hands of on-sites that have been recommended to you or that you’ve tried and formed a trust with. This is not the time to go out on a limb and try something edgy.
As the CNN commentator stated this morning, luxury hotels such as the Taj and the Oberoi often have a high level of security that’s visible only behind the scenes. However, once your client leaves the property, they’re on their own. Recommend to your customers that they ask questions of those they’re traveling to visit. Is there anything they should be aware of? Are there certain areas they should avoid? At times like this, it’s important to be as vigilant as possible.
More than ever, Americans should not try to stand out when they travel. This is a suggestion that’s been posed to them for years, but it’s important that you point out exactly what this means to your clients. While dressing extremely casually for comfort may seem the logical thing to do when navigating a foreign city, it’s possible that this practice may be marking them as an outsider. Instead, trying to blend into the dress codes of the world-class destination they’re visiting may be more practical than you know.
It’s important to note that those who were killed in Mumbai this week were doing none of the above; in fact, they were seeking to embrace the culture of Mumbai and its surroundings in an effort to enrich their lives and those around them. Like so many, they traveled to India because they had heard of the mystique it has and because those they know people who have returned from this country and report that the experience has changed them spiritually.
On a final note, I must say that aside from feeling bereft over the loss that Mumbai has suffered, I also feel robbed. India has been luring me for years now and I have not yet had the chance to visit this amazing country. Seeing the Taj hotel in flames and the Oberoi under siege was surreal; ironically, the dramatic diversity they were enduring while under attack only made them seem more iconic and luxurious. I have always hoped to visit these hotels and some day I do plan to go to Mumbai; I hope it’s soon.
Right now, this city has much to do to get past this horrible attack. I have no doubt that the world will gather around Mumbai to support its recovery much as it did when New York City endured 9/11. As someone who works in Manhattan, I was stunned to witness the support the visitor industry gave us within days and weeks of that tragedy. Mumbai needs that same assistance now.
Additionally, your clients need your sage advice on how to navigate this world more than ever. This world remains a global economy; consumers will continue to seek out new corners of the world. It’s up to you to expertly walk them through their options.