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US issues travel advisory over WC

Those going to Caribbean are warned of a shortage of hotel rooms and terror acts, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.
None | By Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, New York City/washington
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2007 12:46 PM IST

A US travel advisory has warned American students going to the Caribbean on their spring breaks that they could run into crowds arriving for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The State Department note warned about a shortage of hotel rooms, but also noted that "any large-scale public gathering could be the focus of terrorist acts or other forms of violence."

The note, "International Travel Safety Information for Students," was issued on Tuesday in preparation for the week-long holiday granted by US colleges to their students in early March. In a tradition dating back to 1935, hundreds of thousands of students go on cheap tourism packages to Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean islands.

The State Department warns US students that the World Cup could mean "accommodations in many instances may be scarce or unavailable." It urges that "travellers exercise heightened security awareness" in public spaces.

The State Department's consular affairs spokesman, Steve Royster, said the US government had no information about any specific threat. "This is to remind US travellers that there is always the potential."

Royster said he was confident a cricket event had never before been part of a US government travel advisory. He cited a number of reasons behind the notice. "The Cricket World Cup has never been held in this hemisphere; it is unusual in being held across several countries; and it happens to be coinciding with spring break."

Another advisory, he said, with similar language would soon be issued by the State Department to "American cricket aficionados" who might be travelling to watch the World Cup.

Cricket fans should be advised about the threat posed by the students. Spring breakers are notorious for rowdy, drunken behaviour. A number of Florida towns placed severe restrictions on drinking in the 1990s to keep the students away. These days, the favoured spring break destinations are Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica. Of these, only Jamaica will also be a World Cup venue.

Asked if he understood cricket, Royster said, "You can quote this official as saying he declined to comment. But I have tried. I could just never understand who had won at the end of the match."

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