THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
To Go or Not to Go: 11 Places With a Bad Rap
Mexico, Egypt, Greece…we took a look at some of the most "challenged" destinations to help you determine where the benefits outweigh the risks for travel in the New Year.
To go or not to go…that is the question, indeed, if you're savvy enough to know that places that make headlines for the wrong reasons—natural disasters, political unrest, problems with a nuclear power plant—can also become travel bargains. We help you weigh the pros and the cons to determine when to cash in on that discount, and when to wait.
Kidnapping, carjacking, extortion, gang wars—it's not news that Mexico has had issues. In April, the U.S. Department of State warned Americans against traveling to the states of Tamaulipas and Michoacán, plus parts of the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Jalisco. This year, there were nearly 900 gang-related killings in the Pacific resort town of Acapulco—but this is considered a major exception. Most tourist-popular areas, such as Mexico City and the resorts of the Riviera Maya, are considered safe for travelers. (In fact, statistics show that these regions saw even less crime in 2010, per capita, than Orlando and Washington, D.C.) Mexico's government is increasing military security at new government checkpoints, especially in border areas, and its tourist board is fighting all the negative press by flying U.S. travel agents to Cancún to see for themselves that the sandy white beaches in tourist areas remain perfectly calm—except for when the spring-breakers roll into town, of course.
To Go or Not to Go? Go—but only to destinations approved by the U.S. Department of State.
In March 2011, a 9-magnitude earthquake—the strongest ever recorded on the island—caused massive destruction in Japan. The ensuing tsunami that slammed the northeast coast claimed thousands of lives; the massive meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has caused ongoing problems, as significant radiation has been released into nearby areas. Naturally, the tourism industry was hit hard, too. According to Mat Eccles of InsideJapan Tours, plenty of tourists canceled their trips to Japan after the disaster, but "many chose to take advantage of our offer to postpone their trips, to give Japan time to get back on its feet and recover. Almost all of those clients have now reorganized their trips." Though he confirms that tourism to Japan has been down, he's already seeing an upswing. "Over the past three to four months, the level of inquiries and bookings has been picking up significantly," Eccles says. "I've recently booked trips from the wilds of the northern island of Hokkaido to the primeval forests of Yakushima Island, and everything in between."
To Go or Not to Go? Go—just nowhere within 50 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the north (the popular cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are all fine).
An 8.8-magnitude earthquake, said to be the sixth strongest on record in the world's history, rocked central Chile in February 2010. Thanks to the South American nation's sophisticated infrastructure and strict building codes, the damage was somewhat mitigated: Though 1.5 million people were displaced, casualties measured in the hundreds, not thousands. Damage to the international airport caused flight cancellations at first, and the U.S. Department of State initially warned Americans to avoid nonessential travel to the region. But the tourist industry quickly recovered. While Eduardo Doerr of Protours Chile noted that, due to damage to country estates in the wine country of central Chile, some of Protours' itineraries had been temporarily altered, he added that "the earthquake did not affect any of our most-visited areas, so we were able to recover very quickly."
To Go or Not to Go? Go.
Starting with Arab uprisings against then president Hosni Mubarak in January and continuing on to Christian protests when the military attacked a church in Cairo in October (the bloody conflict left at least 25 dead and hundreds injured), 2011 has been tumultuous in Egypt. Though Mubarak, the nation's longtime president, stepped down during a storm of popular protests in January and February, a revolution is still in full swing. The U.S. Department of State isn't currently releasing an official warning against travel to the region, but they've issued a travel alert cautioning travelers to steer clear of protests likely to take place during a series of parliamentary elections that will continue through March. Understandably, tourist numbers, which initially plummeted by 80 percent, are overall down by a third this year—not that the Egyptian tourist industry plans to take the news sitting down. In an unprecedented bid for the tourist dollar, the minister of tourism announced in November that the Lower Nile would reopen to river cruises for the first time in 16 years.
To Go or Not to Go? Wait.