Travel Tips

The Travel Detective Responds to Joe Biden and His Panic-causing Swine Flu Advisory

Joe BidenIs it an abundance of caution, or an abundance of panic and fear?

An epidemic or an “infodemic?”

What constitutes responsible action at a time when fear prevails?

And is the action responsible in context of prudent preventive medical practices?

Or is the action a direct result of an economic reaction to a financial crisis?

Hint: These may all be rhetorical questions.

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It’s been argued—and the last week serves as at least partial confirmation—that Americans are among the most fearful travelers in the world.

Virus closeupMore than 100 cases in the U.S. of swine flu (aka- H1N1 influenza) and one confirmed death has created a negative reaction of staggering proportions as well as some inflammatory statements from some folks who should know better.

Perception versus reality is the name of the game, and as travelers and reasonably intelligent citizens, we may be losing.

You’ve already read my comments yesterday on the historical context of so-called health emergencies around the world—and what really happened.

I would be irresponsible to suggest that governments and medical authorities should ignore the flu or treat its possible spread lightly. But I would also be irresponsible to suggest the sky is falling.

This morning on the Today show, Vice President Joe Biden said he would advise Americans to avoid confined spaces like planes and subways.

Today show logoIs he kidding? And while the White House later tried to backpedal and qualify Biden’s remarks that he was only referring to sick people, the damage was done.

Speaking of the Today show, the network postponed its “Today Takes a Vacation” series scheduled for next week because of flu fears. Again, perception versus reality.

In Europe, foreign airlines appealed to the European Union for permission to cancel all their flights to Mexico and many to North America. The real reason wasn’t the medical emergency, but the economic fallout from the perceived crisis: empty planes.

Cruise lines canceled all Mexican port calls and diverted their ships to other destinations.

And what am I going to do? I’m going to Mexico!

No, I will not be wearing a hazmat suit. But I’ll be flying down on comfortable, empty planes, staying in empty hotels, enjoying a nice fruity beverage on a deserted Mexican beach. And so should you, with the proper medical caveats and a large dose of common sense.

Peter photoHowever, I need to be clear about something. I do not define my job—and in fact I have NEVER defined my job as promoting travel, or as a marketing partner with any airline, hotel or cruise line.

I define my job as finding out the truth in travel, and then presenting you with credible information that allows you to make intelligent choices about your travels.

And I am doing so now. The Vice President sent the wrong message, and so did the Today show.

Think clearly. Think logically. Do the math. Understand your own medical history. Practice good personal hygiene. And then—whether you’re in the middle of a possible swine flu outbreak or anything short of the plague—you can travel.

This is not about getting a great deal (although a check of some Web sites shows airfare from the U.S. to Cancun as low as $71 each way, and considering the law of supply and demand, it’s certainly a strong incentive). This is really all about being smart in the face of unsupported fear.

By Peter S. Greenberg for

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