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YESTERDAY, the United States issued a travel alert aimed at those thinking of visiting Europe, warning them of the risk of potential terrorist attacks “throughout” the continent. On the face of it this seems odd. No one denies that the threat of terrorism this side of the pond is real. France is still operating under a state of emergency following the attacks in Paris earlier this year. It will soon host the European football championship, the world’s third-biggest sporting event after the World Cup and the Olympics. Few doubt that terror groups have a beady eye on the event—least of all France itself, which is deploying 90,000 police, soldiers and security guards to watch over the tournament.

It seems reasonable, therefore, for the State Department to point out such specific concerns. But how useful is it to apply an alert to an entire continent? Shamila Chaudhary, a counter-terrorism expert and former official with the Obama administration, told the BBC that terrorism in Europe was now “normalised”. Europeans, she said, “have been in denial about their domestic terrorism.” But Europe is a large and diverse place. The risks of being caught in a terrorist incident are miniscule. It seems as bizarre to issue an alert for Europe as it would be for all of Asia or Africa (or indeed the United States).

Travel “alerts” do not advise people to reconsider whether to travel in the first place—that is the job of the State Department’s more strident travel “warnings”. And according to John Kirby, a government official, the current guidance, which is an extension of that issued after the attacks on Brussels in March, is not based on specific intelligence. But Gulliver is left with a feeling of bemusement that a visit to Europe is now akin to an act of bravery.

What does this mean for business travellers? Probably little more than some extra (and pointless) security training for those intrepid enough to visit the continent. As we have mentioned before on this blog, road warriors are often more measured about the threats they face overseas than casual travellers. Most can do the maths and thus reassure themselves about the slim chance of getting mixed up in anything nasty. And in any case, as we also pointed out, underpinning any bravado is the simple fact that people do what their job expects.

But companies themselves are becoming more concerned. According to research by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), a corporate-travel firm, over the past two years the safety of employees has overtaken cost to become organisations’ biggest concern when organising work trips. And since the Paris attacks, says Elyes Mrad, the head of the firm in Europe, requests for proposals are now more likely to focus on questions specifically related to terrorism. Twenty-four per cent of companies now provide travellers with security training before their trip, reckons GBT.

Firms have a duty to take warnings from government seriously, says Mr Mrad, but equally it must be remembered that the guidance coming from officials is generic, aimed more at the general traveller than battle-hardened businessman. So firms must be savvy enough to undertake their own risk assessments without necessarily being swayed by the official line. Two weeks after the Paris attacks, Mr Mrad decided to move a team meeting from Brussels to the French capital to allow staff to show solidarity and to prove that, as far as is possible, business life would continue as normal. That seems like a more sensible approach.

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