As spring arrives, college students are embarking on Spring Break trips and American families are planning summer vacations abroad, especially to popular warm climate destinations. Last week, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over consumer protection issues, introduced H.R. 1120, The International Travelers Bill of Rights Act of 2011. The purpose of this legislation is to help protect Americans traveling abroad by requiring websites that market international travel services to provide consumers with information regarding health and safety conditions at destinations advertised on the sites. In 2009 alone, 287 Americans died of non-natural causes in four popular vacation countries (Mexico, China, Thailand, and the United Kingdom). The legislation is co-sponsored by Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.).
"The International Travelers Bill of Rights Act will ensure that Americans booking travel online are provided the latest in health and safety information so they understand not just the rewards of a foreign visit, but also the possible risks," said Rep. Markey. "Information about a destination's health and safety is the most important item to pack for international travelers. Travelers have a right to be provided with the best and most current information so that they can make smart, informed decisions, including whether to book the trip in the absence of such information."
"Sometimes as Americans, we take for granted that health and safety standards abroad are equal to our own. Unfortunately that can be a tragic mistake. Protecting the health and safety of Americans travelling abroad is essential," said Rep. Lynch. "This bill would provide Americans vital information to make informed decisions on their travel plans. I thank Congressman Markey for introducing such important legislation."
Rep. Markey first introduced International Travelers Bill of Rights legislation in the 111th Congress after learning a young man from his district, Nolan Webster, died tragically on vacation in Cancun, Mexico. In January 2007, while vacationing with his girlfriend as a graduation present in Cancun, Nolan drowned in the hotel pool. Witnesses said there were no lifeguards, nor did any staff know CPR. It took an ambulance 30 minutes to arrive. The resort doctor finally refused to treat Nolan.
"The information that this bill will provide is information that I wished I had prior to suggesting to my son that he pick Cancun to celebrate his college graduation. It quite possibly could have saved his life," said Maureen Webster, mother of Nolan Webster, National Co-Chairwoman of the National Working Group for the International Travelers Bill of Rights, and president of the Mexico Vacation Awareness Organization.
Specifically, the legislation requires travel services websites to provide their customers with health- and safety-related information including what hours of the day medical trained staff are at the resort, if medical personnel is a nurse or doctor and whether they are trained in CPR. Additionally, for locations with swimming areas, the legislation will ensure consumers are informed whether the destination employs a lifeguard, as well as if the resorts have automated external defibrillators, which are pivotal to saving the life of someone in cardiac arrest. The bill would also require websites to clearly display any State Department State Department travel warnings and travel alerts. If any of this information is not posted on the travel website, a clear and conspicuous notice must appear on the site to inform visitors that certain health and safety information is not available and therefore travel to those destinations may pose an increased risk to health or safety.