This month has not been easy for specialists in tourism security. We first witnessed the terrorist bombing of the Russian aircraft causing not only death and destruction to innocent civilians but also a major blow to Egypt’s tourism industry. Friday afternoon, Texas time, the first reports of November 13th terrible attacks in Paris began to come through the newswires.
It is still too early to provide a full security picture of the events. The French police are correctly holding back information and being during their investigation not to provide the “enemy” with needed details. Although these attacks may not have been a direct assault against the tourism industry, we do know that the venues attacked all were places of public gatherings and formed the backbone of tourism. As such, it is essential that everyone in tourism be well aware of the consequences of these attacks and learn from them. It is not possible to determine at this moment (November 14) if these attacks have now run their course or if other attacks will follow in the days ahead.
In reading this article please note that it does not attempt to ascertain the causes or responsibility for these attacks but rather examines only the consequences of these attacks on the tourism industry as a whole and presents ideas for tourism’s continued viability in an age of terrorism.
The Russian airline attack and the Paris attacks will force the travel industry to deal with a major travel paradigm shift. France closed its borders and the idea of an open Europe may now be coming to an end. This shift in travelers’ mindsets that occurred after September 11, 2001 may soon return and the western nations which for the last 7 years have viewed terrorism as a criminal act rather than as an act of war. National leaders may now have to reassess their Modus Vivendi. The Paris terrorist attacks, and the possibility of new attacks, have given the travel and tourism a new major wake-up call and will force the industry once again to place tourism security at the top of its priority list.
Unfortunately, many in the travel and tourism industry had hoped that in the years since September 11, 2001 tourism security could once again be placed on the back burner. Put in its simplest of terms; travelers will once again demand good tourism security and not only at airports, but at public venues, restaurants, hotels and stadiums. In the old travel industry paradigm, security was in too many locations the industry’s step child or “dark secrete.” Industry leaders rarely spoke about threats to tourists in public fearing that such openness would scare away visitors. The common belief has been that security was a “necessary evil” that one had to have, but that security added nothing to the business’ bottom line. For this reason, tourism and travel security were rarely publicized, never mentioned in marketing campaigns, under-funded, and its practitioners were often under-paid. The old paradigm led to poor security at airports, hotels, restaurants and attractions. Security professionals who spoke of acts of terrorism, bio-chemical attacks, and crime were seen as alarmist and tourism marketers often asked security professionals to rephrase their warnings in ways that would be acceptable for public consumption.
If the public perception changed after September 11, the attacks against the Russian airliner and the city of Paris will mean that tourism officials who ignore security are placing their entire industry in peril. The bottom line will be simply where there is no security tourism will perish, but in those locales where tourism security is professionalized and well thought through, the tourism industry will continue to flourish.
From Tourism & More, Inc.