Turkish travel warning cautions citizens about travel to U.S.


After the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, the Turkish government thinks that the United States isn’t the safest travel destination for its citizens: The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has posted a travel warning on its website, citing the protests that erupted in several cities immediately after the election including New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The statement was issued only in Turkish, said Aydan Karamanoglu, a spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in Washington, and made no mention of Trump. It did say that the demonstrations occasionally become violent and that the United States had seen an increase in anti-foreign and racist physical attacks and harassment; the statement advised Turkish citizens to take increased security measures and to be cautious in the cities where the protests are taking place.

Turkey is the latest of several countries that have issued warnings against travel to the United States this year, for reasons ranging from Zika to police shootings.

The trend is unprecedented, said George Taylor, vice president of global operations for iJet International, a travel intelligence firm based in Annapolis, Maryland. “There are more travel warnings to the United States recently than there have been in the past,” he said.

This warning is a turning of tables for the United States: after the series of terrorist attacks in Turkey over the last year, the State Department issued numerous warnings against traveling to Turkey.

In the most recent advisory, updated on Oct. 29, it said, “U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the October 29, 2016, decision to order the departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The Department of State made this decision based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.”

Turkey’s warning may be, in part, retaliation for this strong statement, Taylor said. “We came down pretty hard on Turkey after their terrorist attacks and attempted coup, and this is a little bit of tit for tat.”

But while tourism to Turkey from the United States has decreased since the terrorist attacks there — over 20 percent fewer U.S. tourists visited Turkey in the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in New York City — Taylor said that the warning from Turkey is unlikely to result in a dramatic decline of Turkish citizens coming to the United States.

(The number of foreign visitors overall to the United States was on the rise earlier this year — nonresident arrivals to the United States increased 2.1 percent from January to April, compared with the same period in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.)

In Turkey, some residents said that the warning wasn’t big news. Bike Gursel, the chairman of Marmara Hotels, a chain of five hotels in Turkey and two in New York, lives in Istanbul and said that while locals were aware of the advisory, it wasn’t necessarily top of mind. “We have had press about the warning and know about the protests in America, but it’s not the most important news in Turkey right now,” she said.

Warnings from other countries about traveling to the United States include one in April when the British Foreign Service Office advised gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Britons to be cautious if they were traveling to North Carolina or Mississippi because of the anti-LGBT laws in both states. And, in early July, after the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and a racially fueled shooting in Dallas that left five police officers dead, the Bahamas advised young male citizens traveling to the United States to be especially cautious when interacting with police.

Also, several countries including Canada and Britain have advised pregnant women as well as women who plan to get pregnant against traveling to Zika-affected areas in the United States, specifically certain parts of Florida.

Despite these specific warnings, travel warnings, generally, are not cause for concern, said Tim Horner, head of the security risk management practice at the security firm Kroll. “At any given time, there are hundreds of travel advisories around the world related to personal safety, health risks and the weather. They’re meant to keep travelers informed, not scare them,” he said.


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