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Posted on August 15, 2007

By Eli Gorin, CMP

One of the hardest things about getting people to understand about venturing out in the world, let alone to Latin America, is to get them to overcome the negative perceptions they may have about a certain place.  Unfortunately, people rely way too much on what they see on television news to be the end-all-be-all of that destination.  I stopped watching nightly newscasts a long time ago because I started noticing a recurring theme… the newscast tends to always start off something like this: “Tonight we bring you the latest breaking news… a man was found _____________ in his home this evening.  Police are investigating the motive and looking for suspects.”  Following that would be something along the lines of “And in world news… an explosion near __________ rocked [you name the city]”.  Hearing something like that day in and day out would make anyone afraid of venturing outside of their home, let alone the country!

The biggest concern people bring up when I talk about Latin America is safety and danger issues.  They are afraid of being kidnapped, robbed, or whatever else that would detract people from coming to an exotic destination.  I tend to wonder… where are they getting these perceptions from??  The same news cast that said a man was shot outside his home in a neighborhood a few blocks away?  Did that deter them from driving through that street later on in the day?  Probably not… and why not?  Because people perceive these to be “random acts of violence”.  I am not an expert in security, and I certainly am not naïve… but I think there needs to be more focus on the positive and proactive action to avoid the negative.  What do I mean by this?  Keep the thought in your mind that there are many more positives of these varying destinations that outweigh the negatives.  And if you have concerns over the negative aspects, proper planning can absolutely help in alleviating those fears.  Not too sure about the security issue in a certain city… do the research.  Ask the local tourism board for statistics on crime and any issues with foreign groups coming into their location.  Speak with other planners who may have held a meeting in the location you are considering.  If you are still hesitant, consider the options for hiring additional security to protect your group.  The same proactive actions you would take to protect your group in any part of the United States should be taken when traveling anywhere else in the world.  As I always tell people… show me one major metropolitan city in the United States that doesn’t have a section known for being dangerous.

I think if people work to overcome their fears and misperceptions, they will be one step closer to realizing there is a very big world out there with so much to offer… and in my particular case a wonderful region which is home to so many cultural wonders… including 3 of the 7 new wonders of the world.


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