THE NINETIES Planning to be in Peru on March 6? Watch out. Backpacking through Britain in August? Beware. Off to the Olympics in Barcelona or World’s Fair in Seville in ’92? Take your bulletproof vest. These are dangerous times in these cities, but your travel agent probably won’t share that information with you.
Security expert MICHAEL HABERER will. His company, The Octave Group, constantly tracks terrorist actions, political unrest, ethnic violence, and disease epidemics around the globe and advises international business travelers and tourists on how to avoid such dilemmas.
Haberer, a former FBI and DEA special agent, uses contacts at the State Department, Scotland Yard, and Interpol to clue him into potential problems abroad. At his Dallas office (he keeps the location secret), Haberer taps into a decade’s worth of research on the dates when and locations where violence is most likely to occur throughout the world. March in Lima, he says, could bring bombings by the Shining Path terrorist group. Summer in London might be marred by rioting anarchists and planned IRA actions. Spain in ’92 should be overrun by both tourists and angry Basque separatists.
Haberer has recently steered clients away from first-class sleeper cars on French trains because of a rash of attacks on tourists, and he’s alerting travelers to threats by known terrorists Abu Nidal and Mohammed Abul Abbas, who have promised future attacks in Western Europe on behalf of Saddam Hussein. You won’t find that info in tour group brochures.
Haberer warns potential travelers to be cautious about flying U.S.-based carriers from city to city within Western Europe. The security at many European airports is still too lax, he says, And if you’re booked into a big hotel in Europe or Japan, stay above the third floor and off the main street in case of car bombs. Most of all, Haberer says, stay aware and informed. “Innocence abroad leads to ignorance and injury.”
Should we all just stay home? No. “My whole principle is to alleviate fear, not create it,” says Hab-erer, who also works as a private investigator for Dale Simpson & Associates. “I don’t discourage travel, I love it. I just try to make it safe.”