Richard Branson attacks UK Foreign Office for advice
Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson has attacked the UK Foreign Office for the damage he says its travel advice can have on tourism and on airlines. However, others in the travel industry argue that governments’ travel guidance is more relevant now than it ever has been.
In his attack in the newspaper Independent on Sunday, Branson demands an end to advice against visiting countries due to the risk of terrorism. This, he said, was the reason Virgin Atlantic had been forced to pull out of Kenya in 2012.
In recent years, popular destinations such as Egypt, Borneo and Kenya have all suffered security incidents, each of which resulted in countries in Europe and North America giving travel warnings.
Some previously much-visited regions, such as Kashmir, have felt the weight of such warnings for many years. But after a few years of relative calm – and lobbying by tour operators – some of these restrictions were lifted recently, leading to a reopening of some areas to British travellers. This is an example of the travel industry being able to influence government travel advisories.
Regent Travel, which specialises in off-the-beaten-track destinations across Eastern Europe and Asia, recently sent out a promotional email about North Korea, saying that travel advice to the country had not changed despite negative press stories.
Many agree with Branson that sometimes it takes too long for foreign ministries to clear earlier travel warnings, adding that advice often includes geographical areas that are too big to monitor.
[pictured: Skardu, Kashmir; photo by by Waqas Usman]