Travel Advisories:

State Needs Better Practices for Informing Americans of Dangers Overseas

NSIAD-91-249: Published: Aug 28, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 3, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of State's policies and procedures for issuing travel advisories and notices of potential dangers to overseas travellers.

GAO found that: (1) State lacked official written policies and procedures on issuing travel advisories and notices, especially those mentioning crime conditions; (2) even though State's guidance to overseas posts mentioned crime as a factor in determining the need for issuing a travel advisory, State did not consistently report information on crime conditions in foreign countries to American citizens; (3) because of general, limited, or misleading information, some advisories and notices did not appropriately warn travellers of potential dangers; (4) as a result of the GAO review, State stated that travel notices would receive the same distribution as travel advisories and that it would put travel notices on its recorded message system; and (5) State officials indicated that a system designed to inform the general public on security and crime information would be operational by October 1, 1991.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State developed a new travel advisory system which includes procedures for informing Americans of overseas crime problems. State has provided guidance to the embassies for reporting potential dangers to Americans, and developed policies and procedures for inclusion in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish written policies and procedures for issuing travel advisories and travel notices, especially for crime.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has redesigned the travel advisory system. State now prepares a consular information sheet for each country which includes information on crime problems. State also developed guidance on travel warnings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should provide country-specific crime information in travel advisories and notices for countries with crime problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Expanded information on crime is being included in the Tips for Travelers booklet as they are reissued.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should expand the information on crime conditions in the "Tips for Travelers" pamphlets.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has included the telephone number for travel advisory recorded messages in passports but not in all telephone directories because of the costs involved. The telephone number has been included in Washington, D.C. area directories.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should publish and clearly identify the telephone number of the travel advisory recorded message in all public telephone directories and in passports.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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