These days it’s harder and harder to avoid politics with travel

In the travel industry, I’ve long had clients on both sides of the aisle when it comes to politics. 

politicsSome travelers may decide to boycott a destination because of a state or country’s government. Many others, even those who feel strongly about issues, don’t want to think about politics and political differences when they travel.

But sometimes, and it seems to be increasing, that’s easier said than done.

Turks and Caicos, with strong anti-gun laws, for example, has made news lately because not only does the country have strong gun laws, but anyone caught with a firearm or ammunition is subject to arrest and imprisonment.

Then there’s abortion laws. 

While this doesn’t directly affect men, or women past childbearing age, there are now states where abortions are effectively banned in most circumstances. While some of these states have exceptions to save the life of the mother, it’s a grey area. This means that a pregnant woman who experiences an emergency may or may not be able to get care. Including someone who discovers on vacation that they have an ectopic pregnancy.

While I’ve done “babymoons,” there’s no way I’d start asking women clients if they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

These different international rules quickly become complicated for both travel agents and travelers.

Irritated by hotel resort fees?It’s increasingly complicated for travel agents, as well as travelers, when the need to raise awareness of issues comes up. I’ve never asked clients, “Do you travel with guns or ammunition?,” though I suppose with any Turks and Caicos travelers, it can be brought up in a gentle, almost joking fashion, as in, “Now, I’m not sure if you’ve read the headlines lately, but when you’re packing, I trust you know to remove ammunition from your bags and purses?”

While, as I’ve said, I do know some of my clients’ views on issues, as travel advisors we often have no idea of religion, political leanings, etc. It took years before I could comfortably ask a couple traveling together whether they’ll need one bed or two. (And yes, that included both same-sex and different-sex couples — when I first started in the industry, it was particularly hard to ask married couples that question.)

Some destinations are more or less LGBTQ-friendly, too, though in my experience gay couples have long been cognizant of potential issues.

It’s hard to know all the potentially fraught destinations. 

The US has also had “do-not-travel” lists for a long time. When you read now about Russia taking hostages, those warnings are at a whole different level.

Even some destinations not in the headlines may have issues.

politicsLast month the Maldives, a beautiful destination with overwater bungalows, announced it would ban those with Israeli passports from visiting because of the current situation in Gaza.

However, the government, at the time of writing, has paused the ban because there are 2 million Arab-Israelis. Whatever happens, I have to imagine it might be stressful to be a Jewish traveler to the destination.

In the case of the Maldives, it’s easy to assume travelers might think of religion as an issue. And it’s not as if religion is obvious. Star of David jewelry, for example, or a Jewish-sounding name might always be considered. (My husband’s last name is Jewish, but his mother was Catholic and he was raised Catholic.)

It’s not that I think there’s an easy answer here. 

Keeping quiet with a low profile has never been a bad policy for utmost safety, or even just comfort. (Decades ago when the dollar was particularly strong and the rich ugly American was a punchline in European tourist destinations, many travelers from the US joked about or actually wore maple leaf patches or stickers to pretend to be Canadian.)

Join Our Membership Program TodayIn addition, some travelers enjoy wearing political buttons or t-shirts, either as conversation starters or to proclaim support.

But the short version is: Be as aware as possible of what’s going on in the United States and the rest of the world. Politics can increasingly affect your travel, whether you want it to or not.

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