Tuesday, May 3, 2011

U.S. State Department Issues Worldwide Travel Alert

The news has highlighted the worldwide travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department yesterday. These types of alerts are frequently issued after a major event as a safety precaution.

Because we take our commitment to safety very seriously, we carefully evaluate these types of advisories in context of the overall situation. Because we do not travel to unstable parts of the world such as Pakistan or Afghanistan for our student programs - nor sensitive military areas that are the focus of this advisory - we are not currently canceling or reassigning any of our student programs at this time.

As you may be aware, we did cancel a Citizen Ambassador program to Egypt earlier this year until we could reassess its safety.

That said, the advisory highlights common sense safety precautions that are wise to follow regardless of any specific issue. I am sharing them below to help provide you guidance to being safe regardless of where you travel:

What advice did the State Department share?
In part, the State Department reminds all U.S. citizens to follow some basic safety measures:
  1. Be informed about conditions in your local areas by monitoring media coverage of local events and staying aware of your surroundings at all times. (People to People's program office does the same, as well as the staff on the ground who live in the countries visited by our Student Ambassadors.)

  2. Always register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), to receive the latest travel updates and information on your destination.

  3. Be inconspicuous and maintain a low profile. We always suggest students attempt to blend in and leave the fancy clothing and jewelry at home.
We at People to People Ambassador Programs are always evaluating current conditions. We have a long history of safely traveling over 500,000 students and leaders. Our safety team along with our senior leadership team monitors all situations that could impact our programs. I am personally monitoring the details around the most recent travel alert and receive updates from many sources throughout the day.

Changes in the global political climate remind us why we take the responsibility of safety so seriously. You can be confident in the diligence we take when it comes to the safety and well being of our delegates and leaders around the globe as we offer life changing educational travel experiences.


How do we decide whether or not to travel to a country?

In making the decision to proceed with any program, our senior leadership team relies on up-to-date intelligence gathered from a number of organizations, including the U.S. State Department, the Overseas Security Advisory Councill (OSAC), the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and international safety and security specialists. Again, at this point we have not canceled or altered any People to People Ambassador Program based on this most recent alert.

We will continue to receive multiple updates from these organizations on a daily basis and will stay very close to this situation. If the conditions in any way hinder our ability to provide safe and rewarding programs, we will not hesitate to alter itineraries or redirect programs.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!
Mike Bowers

Senior Director of Health & Safety

13 comments:

  1. Thank you for the update. I was patiently waiting to see People to People's stance on this high profile safety issue because my 11yr old son will be traveling to Europe in June. I am still concerned, but I am chalking this up to just being a normal caring parent.

    Again, thank you Mr Bowers

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  2. Mrs. Anderson, thank you for your comments. I had hoped to get a response posted earlier but we wanted to have a solid feel for the situation first. My son is also traveling this summer on a People to People Ambassador Program and our house shares your normal parental concern. I don't think it would be normal not to have some apprehension in sending your child around the globe. On the other hand, this is exactly what my son needs, the opportunity to be out there in a controlled environment without his parents looking over his shoulder. He is 17 now and needs to develop more independence. I have heard from many parents that when their child returned home from their life changing adventure that a man return when a boy was sent or a girl was sent and a young woman returned who now knew what she wanted to do in her life. Thanks again for your feedback and I will continue to stay very close to this situation.

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  3. Jai-W Hayes-JacksonMay 4, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    Cool.

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  4. Thank you for the updates. I feel slightly at ease, knowing that the program is making every attmept to keep parents informed and have open line of communication during this chaotic time. My 13 yr. old will be traveling this summer for his first P2P trip, so we are a little apprehensive about the situation.

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  5. We too have been watching the news closely as our son is about to depart for Australia in June. I appreciate this post as it alleviates some of my recent concerns and just hope that the program will continue to monitor closely and advise us as such. We are very excited for our 15 year old to have this fabulous opportunity and don't want fear to inhibit him (or us as a family) in any way as he embarks on such an educational opportunity!

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  6. Dear Mrs. Berry and Marie Perry, thank you both for your positive feedback. As an organization we are committed to reaching out to families in an effort to create better understanding during these types of events. With the travel alert fairly vague as far as any specific treat or location of such an event, we felt it was important to provide information directly to you. I myself have spoken to the state department in an effort to gain more specific information but at this time, there is no specific threat that is being announced. The State department is just suggesting that we all should be alert and aware of our surroundings. As you see on the nightly news, this alert has had more of an impact right here at home. We see increased security at airports, bus stations, and at gatherings of large groups of people. We are committed to staying close to this situation and will quickly reach out to you all if anything were to change or when we are notified of a specific threat. For now, enjoy the preparation for travel. I know my house is a buzz and my son is becoming ever more excited as his departure nears. Enjoy the weekend. Mike

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  7. Thank you for your update but am really concern about the chances of some Africans to get a callup to participate in the programe.Daniel from ghana.

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  8. This is our son's third trip with People to People and we are very concerned with the issues that have just came into view with Pakistan and possible terror threats to the USA. Our son is traveling to Europe in July and we are truly more comfortable knowing that People to People is putting safety first. We as parent's feel honored to have our son traveling with People to People, Considering that on his first trip as a Sports Ambassador to Vienna he got a concussion from another Sports Ambassador. PTP contacted us immediately. Very Professional.

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  9. Dear Anonymous, I'm afraid I don't fully understand your comment. If you would like to contact me directly to clarify please email me at mike.bowers@peopletopeople.com.

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  10. Dear Mr. Hower, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with our organization. Your feedback is very much appreciated.

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  11. My 15-yr-old daughter is going to Italy & Greece in June (her first trip with P2P). My husband and I were concerned about the safety issue in light of recent events, but my oldest was 12 when he went to Australia with P2P. We, also, have another daughter who was also 12 when she went to California with P2P. We have a great respect for the P2P programs because it teaches the kids sooo much about life and history. Our concerns are minor compared to the chaperones who have the weight on their shoulders. We commend you for your time and knowledge. Thanks to all at P2P for putting our minds at ease.

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  12. Dear Anonymous, thank you so much for your positive and inspirational comments. It is feedback like yours that drives most of us her at People to People Ambassador programs and knowing that we do change lives. Rest assured we will keep a keen eye on world events and reach out to families if something were to change.

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  13. I received this question from parent and have asked her if I could share with all of you as I think it is timely and relevant:
    I just read your travel blog and wanted to ask my questions privately. “Are the embassies alerted of the countries the children are traveling to/through?”
    Thank you for your time.
    The answer is no, we do not pre-register all students with the Embassy. Within this blog post I do provide a direct link to STEP to allow each parent to make that choice. Doing so is recommended by the State Department of the US. I cannot register all students as that would be a violation of their rights by my sharing private and personal information. At People to People we will continue to explore how we can gain parental approval in advance to do this in the future, but today, we cannot and should not share your private information without pre-approval from you to do so. The advantage of registering with the Embassy as I see it is that they can help facilitate communication with families in the event of a major event, like the earthquake in Japan. We provide this same service and would be reaching out to families if students were present during one of these events. The other benefit is that you will receive updates on the destination you are going to. That could be a great value. We receive these updates as well and share with families those that are relevant to the specific destination. So for now, enrolling your child’s name with the Embassy is a personal decision you need to make. If you decide to do so, simply click the link in this article.
    Mike

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