Five Online Tools to Reduce Travel Risks

Digital technology can help offset some risks associated with travel, according to the corporate, academic and government experts who presented at the New York Times Travel Show on Friday in New York. They shared online, social media and mobile resources that can be used for planning business trips such as to the upcoming SxSW conference in Austin or leisure trips to remote overseas destinations.
1. Room77 to Check Hotel Room Views: www.room77.com

This new website and iPhone mobile app takes the guesswork out of finding a hotel room with a good view and helps guests avoid a room overlooking construction. The startup company uses Google Earth technology to show the views from specific hotel rooms. So far selected hotels in North America and the United Kingdom are included and coverage is expanding.

2. Google Street View: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/

Similarly, this feature lets you check out your hotel or restaurant neighborhood before you arrive. Sean Carlson, manager of global communications and public affairs at Google Travel, advised using this option as part of Google maps. It shows fairly recent views by block and provides a virtual tour of the area where you are planning to stay or dine.

3. STEP /Smart Traveler Enrollment Program:https://travelregistration.state.gov

Given all the political unrest and natural disasters, U.S. citizens may need a quick exit plan if traveling overseas. Americans can register their foreign travel itineraries at this site for free so the State Department knows their whereabouts and can assist them in an emergency. As Michelle Bernier-Toth, managing director, bureau of consular affairs at the Department of State explained, the preferred evacuation option is commercial transport, followed by charter flights.

4. Facebook Worldwide Usage Stats: www.CheckFacebook.com

To keep up with the latest Facebook usage trends by country, Sree Sreenavasan, professor and dean of students at Columbia University’s journalism school, recommended this site that contains international data. For example, of the ten fastest growing countries on Facebook last week, six were Middle Eastern, including Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

5. Egypt Travel and Advisories: www.egypt.travel for travel plans and State Dept. travel advisories.

The Egyptian Travel Authority was an exhibitor at the New York Times Travel Show, as was Morocco. Edward Bergman, executive director of the Africa Travel Association summarized the industry perspective regarding travel to northern Africa during his presentation at the show. He said “We need to balance short term precautions versus the longer term optimistic view.”