Disclaimer: This article was written between June 20th and June 27th. It was programmed to be published at 10:00 AM of July 4th, before the shooting at Highland Park was reported. At the time of this update, we learned that on July 4th alone, there were more than a dozen mass shootings across the United States, being Philadelphia, Boston, Sacramento, Oakland, Minneapolis, Kenosha, Kansas City and Richmond some of the most terrifying events. Information about shootings can be found in the Gun Violence Archive website.
It is time to talk about whether we want to continue traveling to the United States or not. It is time to bring to the table a conversation that the industry keeps avoiding out of fear that they will no longer be invited to trips and events, but it is time to realize whether the United States is safe or not. Travel and food media have become an extension of PR agencies. We recently talked about responsible tourism in terms of the homeless phenomenon that is completely out of control. But now I bring you a more serious question than most.
Is it safe to travel to the United States?For a long time we have looked the other way. But circumstances demand that we become aware and decide based not only on statistics, but also on the actual facts that are changing day by day. Why? Because it is not normal to talk of how wonderful everything is in a country that, according to data from Gun Violence Archive, as of June 20th there had been 279 mass shootings, where a mass shooting is defined as an event in which four or more people are wounded or killed in one incident, not including the perpetrator.
Why talk about whether or not the U.S. is safe until now?For years we have seen the consequence of a gun ownership policy that feeds on the corruption poured by the National Rifle Association into political lobbying. But where does this spin that the Constitution permits the bearing of arms come from? Right out of a bent interpretation of the law. But we’re talking about travel here, so we’ll leave the constitutional interpretation debate for another time.Let’s talk about circumstances and travel alerts. Mass shootings are no longer the stuff of remote neighborhoods or lawless cities, as New York was in the 1970s – dubbed Fear City by the city’s own Public Safety Council – or an area rife with open wounds and riots as Los Angeles was in the aftermath of the Rodney King case. Now the shootings are getting dangerously close to places where you and I may be as travelers.
More shootings than days in the year. But no one has an alert for anything.If you look at the U.S. State Department’s website, Mexico is one of the countries with a very high travel alert and, in fact, it is one of the only ones – or the only one, probably – that is even divided by states. Thus, we can see that the alerts are divided into “DO NOT TRAVEL”, “ RECONSIDER TRAVEL”, “EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION” and “EXERCISE NORMAL CAUTION“. This last category, in which only Campeche and Yucatan are included, is the only one in which no risk is mentioned. From there on, the entire country is marked by alerts “Due to Crime and Kidnapping” or only “Due to Crime“. And within these states, each has its own consideration such as “Sonora is a key location used for international drug and human trafficking. U.S. citizens and Legal Residents have been kidnapped”.
Is U.S. safe to travel with gun violence out of control?That same question I asked a couple of weeks ago to Christopher Thompson, CEO of Brand USA which, for quick reference, is the equivalent of what we had with the CPTM in Mexico. Brand USA is a partnership between private entities and government to promote tourism to the United States. Every year they hold IPW, the most important event in the U.S. travel industry. And this year, in addition, Thompson closed his press conference by boasting loud and clear about the strong influence that Brand USA and the US Travel Association -under the leadership of Roger Dow until that moment, since Dow announced his retirement- have in Washington to promote public policies to support the industry’s recovery. So it certainly seemed like the right place and the right person to ask. Is it safe to travel to the U.S. when gun violence is out of control and, if not, is Brand USA working with the State Department and law enforcement agencies to generate alerts for foreign travelers to certain destinations?
Beyond the discourse, the reality ahead and what it may mean.I am writing this a few days after the US Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, decided on two cases of utmost importance, one of them overturning a New York law prohibiting carrying guns outside home and, thus, putting in the way also the annulment of such measure in California, which has a similar law. What does this mean? That now anyone in Times Square can be armed because they no longer have to demonstrate any real justification for carrying a gun in a city that welcomed 33 million visitors in 2021. Yes. 33 million still in a pandemic year. But in 2019, before the pandemic, it welcomed 66.6 million (calm down, Christian conspiracy theorists, calm down). Take into account that something like 20% of those visitors (about 13 million) are foreign tourists. Now imagine one of these nationalist nutjobs whipped up by Fox News conspiracy talk and their White Replacement Theory walking into Times Square with, say, a couple of automatic weapons that they can freely walk all over the city with. Is it safe to travel to the U.S.?
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