“Is it safe for Americans to travel overseas?” That’s perhaps the most common question I’m asked by my stateside clients and the occasional reporter. And following events such as the railway bombings in Spain this past month, the question is usually and anxiously prefaced with, “In light of the recent terrorist attacks….”
To this question, my answer is always the same: No, it is not safe for Americans to travel overseas. Never has been. Never will be.
But having said that, let’s put things in perspective. Whether for leisure or business, travel is a part of American life, and just as in every other facet of that life, it is risky. We can “contain,” “control,” “manage,” “minimize,” and “mitigate” risk, but we can never “eliminate” it.
Sure, the threat to Americans from terrorists increases the risk of travelers, but only by a hair. The leading killers of Americans traveling overseas remain traffic accidents, heart attacks, and disease– not terrorists.
Moreover, there is no way to foresee where terrorists will strike next. It is downright impossible. Successful terrorist attacks occur exactly where people–especially experts–are least likely to predict them. Indeed, that is what enables terrorists to effect successful attacks.
The U.S. State Department didn’t give travelers any warning about the Spanish bombings. And precisely one month earlier, iJET risk management services, actually removed Spain from its “List of 10 Most Terrorism-Prone Countries.”
My point is this: The concern with terrorists attacking American travelers is real, but it is exaggerated and misplaced. We simply cannot know where the next strike will be.
Does this mean that Americans should just forget about being cautious when traveling? Of course not. But the answer to “managing” risk is not to stay home. It is to keep informed, to be alert, and to trust your intuition when traveling.