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If you're heading overseas, you might check whether there is a State Department travel alert or warning for your destination. They're issued regularly about everything from natural disasters to terrorist threats, and they can have a sharp impact on travelers and diplomatic relations. Here's NPR's Jackie Northam.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: If you go to the State Department's website, you can find all sorts of travel information for more than 180 countries. That includes security risks. A travel alert will be issued for a country or a region if there's a short-term security threat, such as protests over an upcoming election. Mark Meader, with the American Society of Travel Agents, says a more serious, longer-term situation could warrant a travel warning.
MARK MEADER: That might include unstable government or a civil war, intense crime or violence or even very frequent terrorist attacks. And in that case, the State Department would advise that you consider not going to those countries at all.
NORTHAM: Countries such as Somalia, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Shamila Chaudhary, a former State Department official, says it's different when more popular tourist destinations are listed as a security concern. And it can have an economic impact on that country.
SHAMILA CHAUDHARY: Countries like Turkey and Israel and Mexico that have a heavy tourism industry generally perceive U.S. travel warnings as negative, especially because there's regular American travel to these countries.
NORTHAM: Daniel Benjamin, who used to head up counterterrorism at the State Department, says the travel warning can affect foreign relations. He remembers when one was issued for Europe in 2010.
DANIEL BENJAMIN: And the Europeans, particularly the French, went completely ballistic.
NORTHAM: Benjamin had to meet with France's counterterrorism czar in Paris a couple days later.
BENJAMIN: I remember so clearly being in this wonderful ornate office, and this general, who I have very high regard for, just reamed me. They were very, very angry.
NORTHAM: The State Department says its assessments are drawn from intelligence, local police sources, trends and that they are not a reflection of relations between the countries. Still, Chaudhary says some countries see them as retaliatory or political in nature.
CHAUDHARY: The countries who are the subject of the warnings tend to politicize this issue, and the United States government has been lobbied by certain countries to kind of get rid of the travel warning.
NORTHAM: Several countries issue their own warnings for travel in the U.S. That includes the Bahamas, which advised its citizens to exercise extreme caution in the wake of recent shootings of young African-American males by police officers. Jackie Northam, NPR News.
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