The U.S. State Department has updated it’s travel advisory website to make understanding warnings clearer. The new system has four levels of increasing risk and each country has an advisory page with its own rating:
The changes represent one of the largest overhauls in the state department travel advisory system’s history and the first significant change to the system in many years, said Michelle Bernier-Toth, acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizens services for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, during a press call on Wednesday to announce the changes.
In addition to the new levels, each country will have one or more letters assigned:
- H (Health)
- C (Crime)
- T (Terrorism)
- N (Natural Disaster)
- U (Civil Unrest)
- O (Other)
As you can see below, Cuba has been assigned a Level 3 Health warning due to the sonic attacks against U.S. Embassy personnel in Havana:
The aim for this new overhaul is to make travel warnings clearer and more actionable. The State Department acknowledged that they can’t control where Americans travel, but they can certainly control how much information travelers have to their disposal.
Hate to get political here, but I will. While I certainly welcome this change and do think that the advisories are clearer and more robust, I’d be wary about the potential for political bias in staving off tourism to a particular nation for nefarious reasons. Take, for example, the Level 3 warning for Cuba. These sonic attacks certainly aren’t made up. The Embassy employees have real injuries (some permanent). However, the FBI has been on site in Havana for months now trying to get to the bottom of it, with no luck at all. In addition, a U.S. Senator is on the record saying he has not seen any evidence indicating this was an attack.
So who knows what the real story is. I haven’t seen any reports of tourists with these symptoms so until I see something concrete, I’ll continue leave the door open that elevating Cuba’s warning level to “3” might be a political effort to cut off tourism as part of an agenda item.