A State Department official is in New Orleans with advice on traveling safely while out of the county. Audiences will include University of New Orleans students and delegates at the AARP convention.
Jim Pettit has worked in consular services over 30 years while stationed in nations as varied as Russia, Taiwan and Mexico. He says that despite the current unrest over an anti-Islamic film made in the U.S., Americans can still travel safely.
“It’s still difficult to say whether this is going to be a long-term phenomenon and, as important, whether this phenomenon is going to affect private-citizen Americans traveling in the region," Pettit said. "To date it has not. To date, it has very much affected our Embassy and Consulate staff.”
In addition to the September 11 killings of four Americans in Libya, some embassies have been the focus of angry demonstrations. But Pettit says in areas away from official U.S. offices, Americans have not been targeted.
He says travelers, from college students to retirees, should read State Department assessments available online for each country they plan to visit. He says embassies are available to help if travelers get into trouble — but don’t expect commandos.
“An embassy has a small number of people, relatively speaking," Pettit said. "They simply cannot go out and rescue people individually. They can keep informing them of what’s going on, what we recommend they do. Even in the case of Egypt during the Arab Spring there were still commercial flights."
Pettit says even travelers in the emerging danger tourism market — such as backpacking in Afghanistan — can have a safe and interesting experience. But he recommends being fully informed before any trip.