US State Department: Be careful when traveling as Middle East conflict continues

Arizonans and other travelers should use caution if they decide to travel abroad after the State Department issues an advisory due to the Middle East conflict.
Published: Oct. 23, 2023 at 9:53 AM MST|Updated: Oct. 23, 2023 at 10:09 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Last week, the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel advisory U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel advisory to U.S. travelers to be extra careful when traveling internationally. This comes as the ongoing conflict in the Middle East continues.

Former CIA Agent and Director of Homeland Security for Arizona, Tim Roemer, said the State Department issues these alerts when there’s worry for spill-over violence into other parts of the world. “When we’re at this type of heightened threat level, anything is possible,” he said, “It can change minute to minute based on what’s happening in the world.”

Although not a travel ban, Roemer said Americans need to take this alert seriously and to be prepared if they continue to travel or be abroad. He adds that you are your first line of defense, and it’s crucial to be aware of your surroundings, know what’s going on in the countries you’re visiting and have an emergency backup plan.

Working in national security for 18 years, including in the White House Situation Room, Roemer said there’s no such thing as being 100% secure. Knowing the alert can be worrisome for folks traveling or have loved ones abroad; he emphasizes it’s not the time to panic. “At this point, I wouldn’t say that it should prohibit you from doing something overseas or studying overseas, especially if it’s not in the Middle East,” he said, “This travel advisory should be taken very seriously, and I think for most places in the world you should have increased caution.”

If you have a trip planned and don’t know whether to cancel it or not, Becky Blaine with The Points Guy said there are always options to consider. “If you don’t feel comfortable traveling, obviously there’s other options to stay closer to home,” Blaine said, “Looking at alternate destinations is always an option, regardless of what the issue may be. Trying to find destinations that may be in a shoulder season or a low season, you’re going to get a better value for your money.”

Blaine said she personally knows some travelers scrambling to change their travel plans amid the ongoing conflict and is starting to see more travelers do the same.

Since the advisory was recently issued, Blaine said her team is having conversations with airlines, cruise lines, tour guides, and more to forecast how bad of a hit this will be financially. However, whether it’s a conflict or a natural disaster, Blaine said there’s always some kind of impact that follows. This includes airlines dealing with canceled reservations, re-routing schedules for crews, and shifting flights.

With this alert in place, Blaine echoed Roemer’s advice to be prepared. Wherever you travel too, Blaine highly advises enrolling your trip into the S.T.E.P. Program, a federal program that connects you to the U.S. Embassy to send you alerts and keep you in contact with the consulate in the event of an emergency. “You can register for it as a consumer and get alerts sent to your email or text it to your phone, and it’s very helpful when you’re traveling or planning travel,” she said

Blaine hopes to have updated numbers as to how much of a financial hit this will be on the travel industry in the coming weeks.

Currently, the U.S. State Department has only issued the highest travel advisory on Lebanon and Israel, forcing all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and their families to leave those countries.

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