Re-schedule non-essential travel to Hong Kong. Air quality warnings in New Delhi, fires in Australia, and more.
Hong Kong – Re-Schedule Non-Essential Travel
We previously advised both corporate and leisure travellers to re-schedule non-essential travel to Hong Kong due to the frequency of protest events both on weekends and weekdays, the level of violence against commercial establishments, periodic Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system closures, the disappearance of map apps, and the possibility for protest activity to occur in neighbourhoods across Hong Kong and Kowloon. Recent days’ events and the likelihood for protests to continue as the district council election date approaches reinforces this view.
We did receive many inquiries as to how to define non-essential travel. Unfortunately, the definition varies with each traveller. Questions we coach corporate clients to ask internally is whether the visit is critical to an in-flight or potential transaction, or, if the visitor’s physical presence in Hong Kong is critical to the maintenance of ongoing operations. By way of example, attendance at trade shows or industry forums might be critical for potential transactions, and corporates might consider it essential travel.
For leisure and family visit travellers, the key question to ask is whether the travel can be deferred to a later date regardless of whether the purpose of the visit is recreation (such as sports activities including participation in competitions), shopping, or sight-seeing. Thus, for critical travel, risk mitigation measures should be reviewed prior to landing.
We also again remind foreigners who live in, or are visiting, Hong Kong to avoid protest tourism. Although such persons enjoy positive media coverage, personal safety and the impact on re-entry or visa applications elsewhere are significant. We also reiterate the importance of journalists who are covering the protests to have sufficient media credentials, as recent disputes indicate the police may expect to see credentials from persons who claim to be media and not a protest participant.
Lastly, when deciding whether to depart early from Hong Kong whether from a business trip, or an extended stay for work or education, visitors should avoid hasty decisions based on media reports or Internet speculation. Versus remaining indoors or continuing to travel one’s known daily routes, a rush to the airport amid transit disruption is not necessarily a safer option, though it may be an expensive one.
The Week in Review – Air, Fire & Water Woes in Asia
Descriptions of New Delhi’s air amid its ongoing bad air crisis range from emergency zone, to widespread choking, or toxic. The situation is unlikely to improve soon and prior to travel travellers should consult a doctor about precautions aligned to one’s individual health status. In northeast India and Bangladesh, Cyclone Bulbul forced the evacuation of millions and the death toll continues to increase as rescuers reach more areas impacted by the cyclone.
Despite ongoing typhoon recovery work following a series of unexpectedly damaging storms, Japan’s tourism and security officials in Japan which in recent weeks accommodated a large number of foreign visitors for the rugby World Cup, a downtown parade by the newly enthroned emperor, and the ongoing Premier 12 baseball tournament.
Public protests and/or political change in Bolivia, Catalan, Chile, Iraq, Lebanon, and Peru among other countries have continued, and a terrorist attack in Jordan illustrates the increased risk in the aftermath of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death.
The Week Ahead – Political Unrest Will Keep Things Hot
Violence in southern Thailand is ongoing security risk for travellers but the recent attack that left 15 dead has brought more international media attention to the insurgency. Tourists visiting southern Thailand’s popular destinations in the near should take extra precautions especially for Christmas and New Years should be vigilant and monitor developments. Al-Baghdadi’s death increases the worldwide threat of retaliatory action in the United States, Western Europe and Southeast Asia. In Israel, if a ceasefire fails to hold, rocket attacks into Israelfrom Gaza will continue.
In addition to the countries listed above, other countries where demonstrations are possible include Brazil following the release from prison of a former president, and Paraguay amid calls to impeach the president. India is at risk from sectarian violence following a recent court ruling in a long running dispute over a property claimed as sacred by both Hindus and Muslims.
Expectations that Australia would encounter an especially severe fire season proved to be prescient, and travellers should expect both travel disruption in states where fires are burning, as well as drought related water use restrictions. On the other extreme, extreme cold in the United States will continue in the coming days and travellers should review extreme cold safety tips.
Hong Kong based travellers visiting Beijing this week might encounter enhanced traffic and venue entry controls through the city due to VIPs attending the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, and should also monitor news reports about plague, or Black Death, diagnoses. First time travellers to Daxing Airport should leave more time so as to familiarise themselves with travel to/from the airport as well as layout within the airport, including distance departure gates.
Ongoing floods in Venice will impact leisure travellers in the near term; as Asia based travellers often visit Venice as part of multi city holiday packages, we recommend immediately inquiring with tour operators and travel agencies the status as well as contingency plans.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau Outbound Travel Alert
Recent updates include Bolivia, Chile, Iraq, Jordan, Spain, and Thailand. While are we’re glad to see the Security Bureau has resumed more timely updates,, we find it peculiar that amid the much publicised list of destinations that like Hong Kong are experiencing unrest, the Security Bureau only considers Lebanon and not other destinations worthy of a red (adjust travel plans, avoid non-essential travel). Perhaps there is a reluctance to suggest that travel plans be adjusted “merely” due to demonstrations and public transport disruptions.
Does this column make you feel unsafe? Worried about traveling in Asia? Send your questions about travel security to [email protected]
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