The State Department's campaign focusing on overseas safety
and travel preparedness for older travelers, which launched in mid-October, is
the latest in a number of campaigns the department highlights each year.
Michelle Bernier-Toth, managing director of Overseas
Citizens Services at the State Department, said that older travelers became the
latest target based on their prevalence.
"One of the things that we look at is, what are the
trends in terms of U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad, and one of the
things we've seen over the years is the growing number of older travelers,"
It's not surprising, she said: Americans over age 55 who are
in good health and have the resources are increasingly traveling, even retiring,
"That's why we said: This is a special group that has
many common issues with other travelers, but there are also special issues that
older travelers have that we want them to be aware of and know where to go for
help," she said. "Our website has a lot of good information for all
travelers, but we wanted to target the older Americans at this time."
On its website, the State Department maintains a page
dedicated to information for older travelers, including downloadable materials
such as checklists.
To spread the word about the campaign, the department has
reached out to relevant media and has posted on its social media accounts. It
posts to Twitter and Facebook. Bernier-Toth said Facebook tends to be the more
effective platform for reaching older travelers.
The State Department also partners with a number of
organizations to help spread the word. In this case, it reached out to ASTA,
which featured the campaign prominently in one of its Travel Advisor Daily
"As the national trade association representing travel
advisers, we sit at the intersection of government and industry and regularly
engage with governmental entities like the State Department, the Transportation
Security Administration, the Department of Transportation and others,"
said Eben Peck, the Society's executive vice president for advocacy.
ASTA has also worked with the State Department to get the
word out about issues in the past, such as the rollout of the department's new
travel warning system.
"Because travel is such an important component of the
overall economy, our goal and theirs is to ensure a safe and reliable travel
system for all Americans and to keep America traveling," Peck said.
According to Bernier-Toth, the State Department runs about
10 different campaigns each year, strategically planned about a year in
When the older-traveler campaign ends, an annual campaign
that focuses on spring break travel will begin.
Others on the horizon include a campaign about cruise
travel, tips to avoid becoming a crime victim while traveling and international
parental child abduction.
"Some of it is looking at the kinds of challenges and
problems we see people having overseas," Bernier-Toth said. "We want
to make sure that we target those, so that people have the information to avoid
For example, with older Americans, a specific issue to which
Bernier-Toth pointed is traveling with an adequate supply of prescription drugs
as well as the prescriptions themselves. "We want to make sure people don't
experience those problems that will really disrupt their travel," she
She encouraged travel agents to keep up to date with the
department and its campaigns and to share them with the appropriate clients.
The best ways are through its website and via Facebook and
Twitter. She also encouraged agents to, in turn, encourage clients to sign up
for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which pushes destination-specific
alerts and information to travelers.
"We look very carefully at what is happening in the
world, who our travelers are, who our Americans abroad are, and we want to make
sure that they have the information they need," she said.
"They know that they can come to us as a trusted source
of information to help them either prepare for their trip, plan their
activities abroad, get out of harm's way when there's something going on. We
really believe that a smart traveler is a safer traveler."