Frigiliana is a popular day trip for visitors to the seaside resorts of the Costa del Sol in southern spain. It has been voted the prettiest village in Spain several times.

The pot calling the kettle…?

Afghanistan, Congo, Syria and Yemen sure, but Spain, Italy and France? Safety is a concern for every traveler and in the modern world it’s a legitimate one. It’s always better to have a warning than not have a warning, but a point comes where one must question the difference between safety warnings and fear mongering. When the one country without a travel advisory is the same country where more people die from gun violence in a year than all terrorism deaths worldwide, that’s particularly true. The United States remains one of the most wonderful places to visit, but its warnings for visiting other countries raise fair questions…

a group of people walking in a parkA New Level 2 Travel Advisory

The United States this week issued a new “Level 2” travel advisory for of all places, Spain. Spain now joins Italy, France, Amsterdam, Turks and Caicos and the United Kingdom as destinations where travelers must exercise “increased caution” as active terrorist plots are imminent. France and Spain are the only countries with more annual tourism than the United States, with 86.9 and 81.8 million respective annual visitors.

A By The Numbers Look

Including war zones such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 26,000 people died in 2017 from global terrorism. More than 20,000 of those tragedies occurred in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq alone, with a vast majority of the remaining numbers from Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia. An estimated 33,000 people are killed by gun violence in the United States each year, which is more than 5,000 souls greater than all annual global terrorism, yet the United States manages to avoid raised travel alerts while dishing them out to, well, everyone.

Global Tourism Impact

These warnings are important reminders to avoid large crowds and not make oneself into a target, but they also impact travel, which impacts livelihoods. People cancel plans, shift focus and move travel away from areas with perceived threats, which can have a dramatic impact on countries heavily dependent on tourist economies. It’s hard not to perceive these warnings as contentious, in a time when the United States is the only country in the 10 most visited with stagnant tourism growth. Every country in the world tourism top 10 has been issued a travel advisory by the United States. Including the horrific Christmas Market shooting in Strasbourg, France yesterday a total of 12 souls have been killed by terrorism in Europe this year.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. While I don’t disagree with your overall point, most deaths by ‘gun violence’ in the United States are suicides which are irrelevant to tourists. Removing those from the 2017 numbers leaves ~15,000 accidental and intentional homicides. And while most of these are also not random acts directed at strangers, I would agree that most American cities are less safe with regard to violent crime than most European cities.

  2. Your argument hinges on conflating the definition of “gun violence” with “terrorism.” The two are not the same. “Gun violence” is any criminal act involving the use of a gun. The vast majority of the body count that you quoted as “gun violence” did not result from “terrorism.” Rather, “gun violence” consists of crimes including domestic violence, drug-related crimes, and other sorts of criminal activity. This criminal activity, while tragic, rarely presents itself in tourist hot spots. On the other hand, the goal of terrorism is precisely to take out as many people as possible while they are in such areas. That Western Europe has a problem with terrorism does not appear to be up for debate.

    The premise that because the US has assorted issues with gun deaths at home, therefore it should not warn its own traveling citizens of known terror risks in other parts of the world is ridiculous.

    The bottom line is for US citizens heading to places like the London Bridge, La Rambla, various Christmas markets across Western Europe, etc., they are taking significantly more risk by doing so today versus ten years ago. As a US citizen, I think it is perfectly appropriate to be advised of the same by our government. The presence or non-presence of problems at home are irrelevant to the issue.

    1. You can color the argument however you want. At the end of the day, 12 people died in all of Europe from terrorism in 2018. I specifically mention that it is good to give warning and that it’s fine to do so. I’m simply questioning how a place (of which I’m a proud citizen) has the gaul to call out every major tourist country. It’s no mistake that mass shootings in the United States are not labeled as terrorism. It’s a bit pot calling the kettle black. I’m extremely grateful for the work the USA does in the intelligence community to thwart attacks, I just think statistically the warnings for others are out of whack with domestic risks.

  3. I have American friends who refer to Chicago as “Chiraq” and while we had an amazing time in Chicago and found it to be one of the friendliest cities in the world, and I’ve been to a 5 of the to 10 most dangerous, the statistics on Chicago murder rates are shocking and you really need to plan your holiday well and know exactly where you don’t want to be. … But that goes for any city in the world.

    I totally agree that there are a lot of cities in the USA that should be on the travel advisory list, they are equally as scary as many on those lists… However, France and Spain, like the USA are big countries and to say they are dangerous is ridiculous, big cities in all 3 can be very dangerous.

    We drove across Portugal, Spain Andorra and France this year with a toddler and not one incident. It was just after the Toulouse issue, we drive around the city, certainly want going to risk it, but every city we went to was amazing. Like our trips to LA, Chicago, New York and Seattle this year, all great.

    Short answer, half the globe should be on a travel advisory list, including the USA… Avoid the big cities and you’ll be totally safe, choose to travel where it’s dangerous and you may have problems.

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