State Department's website adds kidnapping warnings. Where ITN subscribers traveled in 2018

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the June 2019 issue.

The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, connects the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland. Visitors can take a round-trip boat ride, ascending and descending through the wheel, in an hour.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 520th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine. I have a couple of things to tell you about this month.

On April 2, an American tourist and her guide were kidnapped and held for ransom in Uganda. They had been on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park when they were ambushed by gunmen. The kidnappers demanded $500,000 to release the woman. In a negotiation with Ugandan officials, $30,000 was paid by an anonymous benefactor for her release, which occurred on April 8, after which she was safely transported home. Eight men were arrested for involvement in the kidnapping.

As a result, on April 15, the US Department of State began warning travelers about countries where there is a risk of kidnapping. On the Department’s website, the letter “K” was added to the Travel Advisories page of each country in which it was determined there is a legitimate kidnapping threat to foreign visitors.

That code can be found by going to travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html and clicking on the name of a country, then looking to the right of the name on the page that comes up.

The K symbol joins a few other symbols that the State Department already had in use, including C (crime), T (terrorism), U (civil unrest) and O (other). (“Other” is defined very unhelpfully as “There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators.”)

Along with being newly branded with a K, Uganda, at press time, was also marked with a C, and on the State Department’s travel-warning scale it was ranked level 2, telling potential visitors “Exercise increased caution.”

From another government department…

According to a survey conducted by the US National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO), a record number of international trips was taken by US citizens in 2018, that number being 93.1 million.

The survey distinguished between the number of trips made to Mexico and Canada, which totaled 51.3 million (done by land or air), and the number of trips made “overseas” (i.e., anywhere outside North America) by air, which totaled 41.8 million. Thus cruise travel was not accounted for.

The survey considered only travelers who stayed at their destinations at least one night, so anyone making a day trip to Mexico or Canada was not included.

The results showed that, of the international trips Americans took in 2018, 40% were to Mexico and 15%, Canada. Overseas, 19% (17 million) were to Europe; 9%, the Caribbean; 7%, Asia; 4%, Central America, and 3%, Middle East, with South America, Oceania and Africa trailing.

Those percentages reflect America’s general population, but this magazine recently crunched the numbers from a poll of its own. Earlier this year, we asked ITN subscribers, “Where were you in 2018?,” requesting they each list the international destinations visited.

When submitting their list of countries, one couple, Rick and Paula Vogel of Tucson, Arizona, wrote, “We love this annual poll (and everything about ITN)!”

Bear in mind that while the NTTO survey tallied total trips, even multiple trips taken by the same traveler, including repeat visits to the same country, ITN’s poll tallied countries visited at least once by each traveler, so multiple trips made by the same person to the same country counted as that country’s having been visited only once by that person.

After computing all the responses (including the Vogels’), here’s what we found.

Europe was the region visited most by ITN subscribers last year, accounting for 41.8% of all international trips. It was followed by the combined Asia/Middle East (17.9%), then North America/Caribbean (13.6%), Africa (10.6%), South America (5.5%) and Oceania (4%).

A destination category included by ITN but not by the NTTO is nonsovereign territories, which accounted for 6.6% of ITN subscribers’ international trips.

Something I find impressive — ITN subscribers visited an average of 6.7 countries apiece in 2018. Specifically, 41.4% of respondents went to 1 to 4 destinations; 36.4% visited 5 to 9 destinations; 18.6% visited 10 to 19, and 3.6% went to 20 or more, including one subscriber (Justine Kirby of New York, NY) who traveled to 40 locations in 2018, only one of which was a nonsovereign territory.

But which countries were the most visited? According to our poll, the country visited most often in 2018 by ITN subscribers was the United Kingdom, with 20% of respondents having been to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

In second place, like last time, was Italy (19.5%), then the “winner” in the last two annual polls, France (19.1%), followed by Canada (17.8%), Germany (16.4%), Spain (16.1%), Mexico (14%), Portugal (10.4%), the Netherlands (9.6%) and, rounding out the top 10, Greece (8.7%).

Here are the rest of the countries visited most often in 2018, in descending order: in the number 11 position, both Austria and China (including Hong Kong and Tibet), 13. Chile and Norway, 15. Croatia, Iceland, Ireland and the UAE, 19. Hungary and India, 21. South Africa, 22. Denmark, Estonia and Thailand, 25. Argentina, Australia, Finland, Morocco, Panama and Russia, 31. Costa Rica and Switzerland, 33. Cuba and New Zealand, 35. Japan, 36. Montenegro, Peru and Sweden, 39. Vietnam, 40. Colombia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Singapore, 46. Bulgaria and Latvia, 48. Belgium, Botswana and Lithuania, 51. Brazil, Czechia and Slovenia, 54. Albania, Cambodia and Indonesia, 57. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belize, Ecuador, Egypt, Georgia, Israel/Palestine, Jordan and St. Lucia, 66. Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, 70. Barbados, Fiji, North Macedonia and Slovakia, 74. Madagascar and Myanmar, 76. Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Bhutan, Dominican Republic, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago and Turkey, 86. Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Grenada, Honduras, Monaco, Nicaragua, St. Kitts & Nevis and Turkmenistan, 95. Cyprus, Jamaica, Kenya, Oman, Uruguay and Zambia, 101. Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Iran, Luxembourg, Namibia, Qatar, Samoa, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Uzbekistan, 110. Belarus, Bolivia, Brunei, Dominica, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Tajikistan, 121. The Gambia, Lebanon, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda, 127. Bahrain, Bangladesh, Moldova, San Marino, São Tomé & Principe, Seychelles, Ukraine and Vanuatu, 135. El Salvador, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, 143. Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Guinea, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Nauru, Nigeria, Paraguay, South Korea, Timor-Leste and Vatican City, 166. Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Iraq, Mozambique, Pakistan, Palau, Saudi Arabia, Suriname and Tuvalu, 179. Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Mali, Republic of the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan. (In addition, ITN subscribers who live outside of the United States reported visiting the US.)

Comparing 2018’s numbers to those of 2017, some significant risers included Greece, which jumped from the 21st-most-visited country to the 10th-most, Finland, which rose from 48th to 25th, Costa Rica, going from the number 60 position to 31, and Qatar, rising from 137 to 101.

Naturally, other countries dropped in popularity from 2017 to 2018. The most significant drops all happened in Asia. The 44th-most-visited nation in 2017, Myanmar, came in 74th in 2018. Kazakhstan and Tajikistan both ranked 48th in 2017 but 110th last year, while the Philippines fell in position from 64 to 121.

The most significant plunge was made by another country ranked 64th in 2017, South Korea, finishing 143rd.

Of the nonsovereign territories that ITN readers reported traveling to, the most visited was one in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands (administered by the UK), reported by 3.6% of respondents.

Also visited were, in descending order, 2. Greenland (Denmark), 2.9%; 3. Aruba (Netherlands), 2.4%; 4. Curaçao (Netherlands) and Falkland Islands (UK), 2.2%; 6. Bonaire (Netherlands), French Polynesia (France) and Sint Maarten (Netherlands), 1.9%; 9. Bermuda (UK), French Guiana (France) and Saint-Martin (France); 12. Martinique (France) and Turks & Caicos (UK); 14. Azores (Portugal), Canary Islands (Spain), Cook Islands (New Zealand), Faroe Islands (Denmark), Gibraltar (UK), Guadeloupe (France), Guernsey (UK), Isle of Man (UK) and Svalbard (Norway); 23. Niue (New Zealand) and Réunion (France); 25. Jersey (UK) and Saint-Barthélemy (France); 27. Madeira (Portugal), Montserrat (UK), New Caledonia (France) and Saint-Pierre & Miquelon (France), and 31. Anguilla (UK), Pitcairn (UK), Saba (Netherlands), Sint Eustatius (Netherlands) and St. Helena & Tristan da Cunha (UK).

Two land masses that do not officially belong to any country were also visited by ITN subscribers: Antarctica (2.2%) and Western Sahara (0.2%).

The places to which no one reported going in 2018 were Afghanistan, Burundi, Libya, Niger, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, Mali, Nauru and South Sudan all were missed in 2017 but visited in 2018.

We thank all of you who participated in our poll. The statistics we collect are invaluable in attracting potential advertisers as well as informing ITN staff about readers’ interests. As a ‘Thank you,’ and as is our annual tradition, we have randomly chosen a number of entrants to receive prizes.

First prize, a 3-year ITN subscription extension, goes to Marjorie Miller of Placerville, California. Our two second prizes, two more years of ITN delivery, go to Robert Clemmer of Corona del Mar, California, and Femi Faminu of Los Angeles. Lastly, one-year extensions go to three participants: Jean Green of Reno, Nevada, Susan Hamilton of Boulder, Colorado, and Laura Hall of San Diego.

Those results appear weighted toward the West Coast, but the drawings were completely random.

As you continue flying, sailing and driving to new lands this year, keep a list for when we ask “Where Were You In 2019?”

And take a moment once in a while to visit ITN’s Message Board at www.intltravelnews.com. Once on the page, just click on “Login” and follow the prompts. See if you can answer a fellow subscriber’s request for travel info… or ask something, yourself.