The original of this article was published in the IPA New Zealand magazine some time ago, written by Ace O’HARA.
While this advice is mainly for IPA members who are seeking travel assistance for the first time, it will also remind experienced travellers of what is expected of them, and what they can reasonably expect in return.
Never forget that IPA members the world over volunteer to host or assist visitors. They do so mostly because they are interested in people and the enjoyment of socialising with others who share a common interest in law enforcement and peace keeping.
IPA hospitality is fragile yet precious. Nurtured and genuinely appreciated it will flourish and grow, but abused and taken for granted it could just as quickly wither and die. This advice is to ensure that you do not become an abuser. Friendship is flexibility.
The scope of IPA hospitality varies from country to country, and may depend on the volume of visitors received and the number and enthusiasm of the local IPA members. It is unreasonable to expect to be home hosted in popular tourist areas that have few IPA members, (ie. London, Las Vegas or Hawaii etc.). The most that you can expect is a friendly face and advice on the best "value for money" places to stay, how to get around, and what to see and do.
The local IPA member usually knows this information and such advice should be valued. If you get off the well-worn tourist track and visit areas where there is a keen IPA membership, you may be overwhelmed by the warmth and kindness of IPA members wishing to host you. It is always best not to expect too much from IPA.
If your expectations are met fine, if they are exceeded, that is a bonus.
To get the most out of your vacation travel, seeking IPA assistance, start planning well ahead. If visiting another country, send your Travel Form at least two months in advance. Six weeks notice should suffice for travelling within Australia.
Horror stories include:
If you have not visited a country or city before, do some reading and research so that you have a clear idea of what is available that may be of particular interest to you. If you require advice from the Travel Secretary for that country, write with your request and enclose a stamped self-addressed business size envelope for reply, (Someone has to pay the postage and YOU want the service!).
A lot of IPA members in different countries have computer E-Mail addresses. Also a number of them have a Fax number that costs the same as postage or just a little more, and take maybe 2 minutes compared to 1 or 2 weeks for a letter to arrive by mail. When a Fax is sent, you know the person has received the correspondence Please ensure that you also forward a copy of your IPA card. (Australian members must submit the official travelling forms via their Regional Secretary/Treasurer.)
If you want to be home hosted, please supply a short profile of yourself and your spouse, including details of age, work and recreation interests, smoker or non-smoker, and allergies or medical problems (if any). If you are being met and home hosted try to be considerate of your hosts, and their family routine.
If your aircraft is delayed or your travel schedule changes remember to let them know of the change. Nothing is more frustrating than to make a fruitless journey to an airport to meet guests who fail to arrive), make sure that it does not cost your host a lot extra to have you stay. Do not make toll calls on a hosts phone without clearing it first and offering to pay for the cost of the call. Try to make it a pleasure for your host to have you. Smile and express your pleasure at what has been done for you. There are various ways of showing that you care -- no hard and fast rules, but here are some suggestions.
If you are staying for several days buy some groceries or insist on contributing to the housekeeping costs. If your hosts are both working during your stay, buy the ingredients and offer to cook them your favourite ethnic meal. Treat your hosts to a meal out at their favourite restaurant. This is a universally appreciated way of saying "thanks for having us." Buy them a bottle of wine or other liquor that you know they will enjoy.
If your host is running you around in his car, insist on paying for some fuel in his tank which will go some way towards offsetting his running costs. Buy a lunch on the road etc., and observe the Golden Rule "Do for them what you would have them do for you" and you will be OK.
Begin your planning by gathering suitable things to give away us gifts of appreciation. Police and IPA souvenirs are very acceptable as are pictorial books, calendars and diaries, specially of your own country. It is important to promote your home area and country. The spirit of friendship and remembrance should be more important than the value of the gift. Handmade items are individual and usually every acceptable.
It is worth while to have your business calling cards printed with your contact address, phone and IPA numbers which you can exchange with your hosts and other IPA members.
Perhaps the most important aspect of being hosted overseas by an IPA member is the opportunity to issue an invitation to your host to visit your country. Never neglect this invitation for if your host has been a good host, they will also he a good guest.
Make the most of your trip by listening and learning. Your host will think you are a brilliant conversationalist if you throw him the occasional question and then sit back and listen attentively. If your host asks you questions, by all means show national pride and think of a positive answer. Nothing will turn a host off quicker than a poor listener who cannot wait to get a word in to brag about how things are back home.
Never forget that you are an ambassador for your own country and your IPA Section.
In smaller countries it is natural that its citizens look outward at the rest of the World and in the process acquire a more balanced view than perhaps those citizens of a very large country. Concerns will more likely revolve around what happens internally within their country, rather than adopting a "citizen of the world" view. Remember that IPA membership exceeds 250,000 in over 50 countries and that one of our IPA objectives is improved understanding and friendship among police members without any distinction as to rank, sex, race, language, culture or religion.
If you request IPA assistance with hotel or motel bookings on your behalf, establish contact far enough ahead to enable you to send any required deposit to secure that booking. NEVER request that a reservation be made for you that may require a monetary deposit, without sending the money.
If you have enjoyed IPA hospitality, why not share your pleasure with others by writing of your experience for your local IPA publication, giving credit where credit is due, to those who have helped you.
Even if you have shown your appreciation at the time by a gift and thanks, do not neglect the simple but effective courtesy of writing a sincere "Thank-you" note to all those who hosted you or gave you significant help. It can mean so much to the recipient.
If you appreciated being hosted and assisted overseas by someone who accepted you on trust purely because you were an IPA member, then you can do the same for them. Even if you cannot afford to travel as often as you would like, you can still enjoy the satisfaction and joy that comes from providing a "home away from home" for IPA visitors.