GGCT stresses: travel alert is recommendation, not prohibition

Macau’s Tourism Crisis Management Office (GGCT) issues travel warnings to countries and regions to serve only as recommendations, the Office stressed a day after it reminded the public that its second-most serious level warning would remain in force for Sri Lanka.

Travel warnings issued by the Office can influence trips made by local residents to such locations. The system has been used as a guideline or reference on several occasions, including the recent decision of the Macau Football Association to forbid the National Team from playing in Sri Lanka, a country on the level 2 travel alert list – countries to which unnecessary trips should be reconsidered.

The warning was issued in late April after a series of bombing attacks targeting churches and hotels in the country on Easter Sunday and is still in force, as reaffirmed by the GGCT notification on Monday. The notification advises Macau residents who intend to travel to Sri Lanka to reconsider their plans.

With the purpose of learning more about the system, and its evaluation and purpose, the Times contacted the Office yesterday.

“In the evaluation of the issuing, cancellation, elevation or decrease of the level of travel alert, risk factors and dangers involving socio-economic and political frame of the destinations are taken into account,” wrote the GGCT in a note to the Times. The Office added that such risks can constitute a simple or more complex scenario, in which multiple dangers are present at the same time.

It also noted, regarding the purposes of the system, that the “Travel Alert System […] acts only as an indicator of states of emergency in order to raise the awareness of individual people […] and does not constitute a guarantee of security.”

Neither does it aim to be a “prohibition on traveling.”

Instead, “it is up to each person to decide to travel or to adjust their travel plan according to the information provided.”

The equivalent authority in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Outbound Travel Alert (OTA), publishes a more comprehensive list of dangerous destinations, including countries such as Syria, Pakistan and Lebanon. Asked about their absence from the Macau travel warning list, the Office said that their inclusion or not depends “on the degree of threat to personal safety, the duration of the threat, and whether the affected site is a travel destination sought by Macau residents.”

The GGCT considers “whether tourists have been [directly] threatened, and if other travel alerts were issued by authorities in mainland China, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and other neighboring regions.”

At present the local alert system includes 77 countries and destinations considered popular destinations by Macau residents. The examples of Syria, Pakistan, and Lebanon, which were noted in Hong Kong’s OTA, are not on the list.

The OTA System says its mission is “to help people better understand the risk or threat to personal safety in traveling.” It includes a total of 88 countries and territories considered popular travel destinations for Hong Kong residents.

According to information from the Hong Kong Security Bureau, factors that may affect the personal safety of Hong Kong residents include public health problems, food safety and the risk of contracting infectious diseases.

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