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Tourism Tidbits Archive

Facing both old and new security challenges

March 2017

The first quarter of 2017 began in ways that were not that different from the end of 2016.  The tourism industry continues to be a target of terrorism and acts of crime.  For example, France has recently faced a series of attacks, some successful and some thankfully stopped.  Terrorism continues to be a problem in much of the Middle East and crime and violence continue to stalk Latin America.   Brazil has had the additional problem of a police strike in one of its northern cities.  Often these actions are highly publicized and this negative publicity in turn encourages those who seek violence. Acts of violence do not only cause death and destruction but are intimately tied to economic undulations.  Because tourism, and much of travel, is dependent not only on economic realities but also on economic perceptions, what occurs in the economy impacts the entire tourism world. It is still too early to note the impact of the ”Trump effect” on the long-term national and international economy.  We may hesitantly predict that European economies (and the euro) will continue to weaken. Europe suffers not only from post-immigration stress, but also from deep demographic problems combined with a lack of resources. The continent is wedged in between an ascending United States and a Russia that is flexing its muscles.  How these economic and political realities will impact European tourism will be fascinating to observe.

For this reason tourism officials will need to be much more sophisticated in the way that they view the world.  It is no longer viable for tourism and travel officials to receive their information from only one source. In the US and Europe with the collapse of the classical media, more and more of travel and tourism’s customers receive their news from social and non-traditional media outlets.  Tourism and travel professionals must take into account that political instability is now a major concern in Africa and Latin America, with the Middle East, Europe, and North America open to terrorism attacks and Latin America still suffering from high levels of crime and drug trafficking.  Brazil, along with much of Latin America, is suffering from both issues of crime and issues of health and sanitation.

An additional problem, especially in the field of tourism security (or better stated: tourism wellbeing) is the fact that salaries remain low causing both recruitment and personnel retention challenges.  High turnover levels make training difficult and often each time a person leaves, the information is lost.  To make matters even more challenging these are often the person with whom visitors come in contact.  The formula tends to guarantee low job satisfaction and low levels of customer satisfaction.  If tourism is to be a sustainable product then it needs to turn part-time jobs into careers without pricing itself out of the market. If the travel and tourism industry hopes to continue to grow it will need trained personnel, and a willing and enthusiastic workforce at every level from the managerial, to skilled workers to the semi-skilled worker.

Turning to issues of tourism wellbeing.  We note the following problems:

  • Issues of gang violence
  • Issues of health and the potential spread of contagious diseases leading to pandemics
  • Issues of crime spilling into centers
  • Issues of acts of terrorism
  • Media produced panics or psychological panics

Many of these problems may occur in places that are open to:

  • The generation of mass casualties
  • Hold some form of national or international iconic value
  • Are easily accessed by the media
  • And in the case of terrorism, the long-term consequences are not only in the physical harm done to the victims but also in the economic hard that impacts the tourism industry directly and other local industries indirectly.

Here are some of the basics of terrorism and tourism about which that travel and tourism officials need to be aware:

  • Not all attacks against tourism need to be violent.  Terrorists do not only need to use deadly force, they can create a tourism crisis by means of cyber attacks, social media or simply creating rumors that create fear within the traveling public.  In today’s media interconnected world news spreads at extremely rapid speeds and can cause fear and cancellations not only at a particular locale but also across the globe.
  • Despite the publicity and the media, statistically terrorism still strikes relatively few people and even fewer tourists.  The death of anyone is tragic, but a visitor is more likely to die from a road accident of a safety hazard then from an act of terrorism.  On the other hand, it is rare for the media to spend a great deal of time on road accidents. Tourism centers need to develop good media plans and have them in reserve so that if an incident should occur they are not developing a plan at the last minute.
  • When acts of terrorism do occur tourism is often a magnet for terrorists.  Not only does tourism provide many “weak targets: but tourism values are the antithesis of terrorists’ values. Furthermore, the tourism industry is so large and diverse that it provides multiple targets for those seeking to create economic chaos.
  • Thus the tourism industry faces a paradox.  Although most tourists are never impacted by acts of terrorism, when it does occur the media publicity is such that the reporting on terrorist attack’s impact is out of proportion to the act itself. Due to high levels of publicity a terrorist attack in any one location raises traveler anxiety levels around the world.  Due to the fact that terrorism is now a worldwide phenomena, an attack in any one location means that visitors are not only increasingly fearful but that these attacks may cause people to cease to travel or to travel less, thus impacting the entire industry.
  • Attacks against non-tourist specific locations still act as passive attacks on tourism.  Terrorism is based on fear and the greater the public fears being away from home, the more precarious is the tourism industry’s situation.  Terrorists do not need to target a tourism industry actively to do it damage, a passive attack or a failed, but publicized attack is still a success from the terrorists’ perspective.
  • Terrorism is no longer confined to major tourism centers.  The California terrorism incident demonstrates that terrorism can occur in what may have previously been considered unlikely locales.  This means that areas that were considered “safe” need to also develop counter terrorism plans.