Markey: International Spring Break Travelers Need Bill of Rights

After hundreds of tragic deaths, lawmaker calls for Congressional hearing on improving practices of online travel industry to protect health and safety of international travelers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With families and students in the midst of packing their bags for spring break trips, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over consumer protection issues, today called on Congressional leadership to hold a hearing on the need to fully inform consumers of the risks of overseas travel. In a letter to Chairs Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Mary Bono-Mack (R-Calif.), Rep. Markey asks for a hearing to investigate consumers protection issues related to the online travel industry in an effort to improve tools for consumers to better manage the risks associated with international travel.
Rep. Markey first introduced the International Travelers Bill of Rights Act legislation after learning of the tragic death of constituent who was vacationing in Mexico. Traveling to Cancun on a trip received as a graduation present from his parents, Nolan Webster died tragically after being pulled from a swimming pool where no lifeguards were on duty and after the resort doctor refused to treat him. Introduced in March 2011 by Reps. Markey and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), H.R. 1120 would require websites that market international travel services to provide consumers with additional information regarding health and safety conditions at destinations featured on the sites or explicitly and prominently state that such data is not available from the destinations. In the first six months of 2011 alone, 135 Americans died of non–natural causes in the popular vacation destinations of Mexico, China, Thailand and the United Kingdom.   
“As great as the rewards of international travel can be, so too are the risks,” said Rep. Markey. “The International Traveler’s Bill of Rights will ensure that travelers who book their vacations online receive the latest in health and safety information so they can make smart, informed decisions, including whether to book travel in the absence of this information. This legislation can help consumers avoid vacation destinations that are unsafe or lack staff trained in basic emergency response or first aid, potentially saving lives.”
The letter to Chairs Upton and Bono-Mack can be found HERE.
Specifically, Rep. Markey’s 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.
  • 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.
  • Requires websites to clearly display any 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.

“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.
H.R. 1120 has been endorsed by Consumer Action, Consumers Union, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumers League and US PIRG.