Could the British Embassy’s scaremongering radio ad unjustly brand Spain as a dangerous place to travel?

I was shocked to hear a radio ad warning people of the dangers of driving in Spain, a country that is very safe compared to many others. Not because of the claimed dangers of criminals targeting tourists, which happens everywhere, but because it was an over reaction and one that could damage Spain’s image.

The ad pointed out that there are gangs who target tourists (some dressed as policemen) and con them with on the spot fines or rob them. Highway robbery goes on in almost all countries, including the UK, it’s nothing new. The ad could have been for almost any country in Europe or Eastern Europe.

The fact it was broadcast on the radio, with no consideration for the damage it could do to Spain’s image, I thought was totally irresponsible. What were the British Embassy thinking?

There are many ways to contact travellers directly (have they heard of the web?) rather than broadcasting a scaremongering ad that brands Spain as a “dangerous place to drive”. Why not scare off the tourists when Spain needs them most? Seems they didn’t get very good media planning advice.

Ads on TV, outdoor or the radio can be very powerful, these mediums are the most influential, and can leave a long term impression, one that can take a generation to shake off.

I travel to Spain 4 times a year and drive a lot there, but so far had no incidents or met anyone who has, because it actually affects very few people. You stand far more chance of getting robbed in a train station, on the beach or out at night.

The worse reported road is the AP7 motorway between the France and the Alicante region. About 140 cases of robbery were reported last year (that’s almost 3 a week). Bad, but hardly a crime epidemic (compared to many other incidents) that warrants a taxpayer funded ad campaign.

Motorists can download guidance on avoiding the ‘highway pirates’ from the UKinSpain travel advice webpage. The site highlights how a couple had their bag snatched from their car at a service station as they were fiddling in the boot – well that can happen anywhere. I wouldn’t leave a bag in a locked car in London and not expect to have it nicked.

Spain, which is actually one of the safest places in Europe, isn’t the only place warnings have been issued, the British Embassy in Latin America have posted a warning video on YouTube about bogus taxis robbing tourists in Bolivia.

If I was the Spanish I’d be warning their country men of the dangers of visiting London – robbery, assault, rape, murder – it all happens here! If they did, I bet our national papers and the government would be protesting very loudly.