- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

Business and diplomatic travelers are being advised to take extra care or avoid travel altogether in a number of mainly Islamic countries since the beginning of U.S. air strikes in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In particular, travelers should avoid U.S. government offices and other places where American military personnel are likely to gather, risk-analysis specialists said this week.
On Sunday, the first day of the air strikes, the State Department issued a "worldwide caution" against all international travel, notifying tourists and business travelers that terrorist threats "pose significant risks or disruptions to Americans."
Americans were specifically cautioned, which is a step lower than a "warning," against traveling to Indonesia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Yemen and Sudan. The State Department advised U.S. civilians in Afghanistan to leave the country immediately.
The airline industry, which relies heavily on business-class travelers for its profits, has lost billions of dollars since the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Several airlines have declared bankruptcy and Congress has offered a $15 billion bailout to keep the industry flying. Airfares have been lowered in an effort to attract wary business travelers, but many are opting to stay home.
"Our international travel has dipped 8 [percent] to 10 percent," said Ray Pierce, chairman of Executive Travel, the largest independent travel agency in Washington, yesterday. "Business travelers that normally go overseas are the most professional of the travelers. They have to go. They understand the risks."
Mr. Pierce said business travel to the Middle East and Israel has all but disappeared.
A survey of 5,673 human resource professionals, taken since the bombings, showed that 67 percent are allowing employees in their companies to postpone or cancel business trips. The survey, published on the Internet, was conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management and EEPulse.
Risk-management specialists said American travelers should exercise caution when traveling abroad, especially to the Middle East, South Asia, Pakistan, Israel, Yemen, Indonesia and Afghanistan.
Michael Oakes, of Stratfor.com, a private global intelligence company based in Texas that advises businesses on the risks their company or employees may face overseas, said that travelers should avoid U.S. government offices, military installations and areas or businesses known to be frequented by the U.S. military personnel. "Based upon some past terrorist attacks and patterns in the last few decades, those are kind of the locations that have been targeted," he said.
Worldwide, fears of retaliation for the U.S.-led military strikes were enough to cause heightened security measures.
In Britain, London Heathrow Airport, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament have added extra security. Britain's Foreign Office urged British tourists to avoid nonessential travel to Indonesia this week.
Japan, South Korea and Turkey have increased security at U.S. military bases. Japan also tightened security at its nuclear reactors.
France reactivated security measures first used after bombings by Algerian Islamic militants in 1995 and 1996.
New Zealand and Australia have warned their citizens to take extra precautions in Indonesia, where the Islamic Defenders Front has threatened to attack U.S. interests and citizens if the government doesn't cut ties with Washington. Tens of thousands of frightened foreigners have left Indonesia in the past two weeks, where Muslims make up about 90 percent of the 210 million population.
Mr. Oakes acknowledged that the chance of getting attacked by terrorists is low, but the chance of becoming a victim has increased since Sept. 11.
He said that Americans should try to blend in and not attract too much attention overseas. Large tour groups and American flags could become easy "potential targets," he added.
"The general rule is to be as inconspicuous as possible," he said. "I wouldn't walk with the New York Times hanging out from your pocket." Mr. Oakes said travelers also need to be careful in large European cities, including Rome, London, and in the grand duchy of Luxembourg.
Brussels, he said, could become a potential terrorist attack site because there were plans to possibly attack the European Union Parliament or other European government buildings.

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