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AFTA CEO Update - Consular State of Play Report

THIS week the Federal Government launched the Consular State of Play report, which details the things that have gone on with Australians while travelling overseas - CLICK HERE to read the report. According to the report, the top five countries where Aussies reached out for help were: Thailand (895 cases), United States (666 cases), Philippines (647 cases), Indonesia (563 cases), and China (390 cases).

Overall, there were 13,000 open contact cases for the year, which means a lot of people are talking to Australian embassies and consular offices all over the world. Of our top five outbound destinations by numbers only, just three of those (Indonesia, US and China) are in the top five countries where Aussies reached out for help, so the theory that the more people that go to a particular destination will result in more contact with the Australian Govt while on trips, does not wash.

The report lists 4,967 contacts for whereabouts – clearly people don’t stay in touch with family and friends enough when they travel, which is surprising given the prominence of social media. Another reason for contact was 1,695 deaths, with 536 dying from illness, 333 from natural causes and 158 by accident; it is important to note that this number includes Australians who have chosen to live overseas. Arrests was another reason for contact, with 1,572 people getting arrested last year while overseas, including detention cases as a result of visa infringements. It’s an important reminder that people need to be aware of the local laws and make sure they have the valid visa for the country they are planning to visit.

So all in all, another big year for the consular services and of course the excellent Smartraveller program. In fact, there will be a brand-new website launched in the next few days for Smartraveller, which will provide a new subscribe feature that replaces the register feature, allowing travellers to get up-to-date information on the destinations they are travelling to, and also provides DFAT with their basic contact details so it is easier to find them should a crisis occur.

The simple message from all this is for travel agents to get their clients to subscribe to Smartraveller and stay in touch with family, friends or even the agency via social, so locating them in times of crisis becomes easier for everyone involved. I’m pleased that the Federal Govt continues to be 100% committed to robust consular services and the all-important Smartraveller program.

It is time for everyone to reconnect with Smartraveller.gov.au.