The attacks in Paris on Friday the 13th were horrific, and as news continues to develop, it becomes even more horrific. ISIS has claimed responsibility and the world, once again, is on high alert. I live in a military town and the base instantly kicked up their DEFCON status. With a situation like this, travel professionals will once again be faced with challenging days in the future. And while our governments and militaries map out strategies to combat the terrorism; as small business owners, we need to insure that our businesses continue to thrive.
Clients will be fearful of travelling outside of their comfort zones (home). The US State Department may issue strongly worded advisories against travel. We may see some increased security measures at airports worldwide. And our European bookings will likely take a hit. But as an industry, we can pull through. We have in the past, and we will again.
For sure we never want to assure the safety of our clients—anything can and does happen; here, there, or anywhere. But we must not cower. We must proceed with caution and love. After the attacks, Wendy Perrin said it very eloquently on her Facebook page:
We’re living in a world where anything can happen anywhere at any time—in a Paris theater, in a Madrid train station, in a hotel in Mumbai, at a shrine in Bangkok, in the London Tube, in a nightclub in Bali, at a running race in Boston, in a skyscraper in NYC…. The answer is not to stop traveling—or to avoid huge swaths of the globe (e.g., the Middle East) out of a misperception that your risk is greater there than anyplace else. The answer is to keep traveling, to make friends around the world, to be a thoughtful ambassador for your country.
From a more pragmatic view, Rick Steves puts it in perspective with some numbers as well on his Facebook page:
After Friday’s horrifying events in Paris, as we keep the victims and their families in our prayers and marvel at how violent hatred can express itself, it’s natural for those of us with travels coming up to wonder what is the correct response. Let me share my thoughts:
I have two fundamental concerns: what is safe, and what is the appropriate response to terrorism.
About safety, I believe this is an isolated incident. Tomorrow Paris will be no more dangerous than it was the day before that terrible Friday the 13th. I also believe that security in Paris and throughout Europe will be heightened in response to this attack. Remember: There’s an important difference between fear and risk.
About the right response to terrorism, I believe we owe it to the victims of this act not to let the terrorist win by being terrorized. That’s exactly the response they are hoping for. Sure, it’s natural for our emotions to get the best of us. But, especially given the impact of sensational media coverage, we need to respond intelligently and rationally.
In 2004, Madrid suffered a terrorist bombing in its Metro, which killed 191 and injured 1,800. In 2005, London suffered a similar terrorist bombing in its Tube system, killing 52 and injuring 700. These societies tightened their security, got the bad guys, and carried on. Paris will, too.
I’m sure that many Americans will cancel their trips to Paris (a city of 2 million people) or the rest of Europe (a continent of 500 million people), because of an event that killed about 150. As a result, ironically, they’ll be staying home in a country of 320 million people that loses over 30,000 people a year (close to 100 people a day) to gun violence.
Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Paris, the victims, and their loved ones. And it remains my firmly held belief that the best way for Americans to fight terrorism is to keep on traveling.
The message is clear, and it is a message we need to convey to our clients. Because of an isolated act of terror, we cannot be held hostage. As travel professionals, we need to rise to the top and provide the guidance demanded by our clients. Help them make the best decision for themselves. Provide alternatives such as a different point of view or perhaps a different destination. Most clients will be influenced by social and traditional media, which likely will work to their (and our) disadvantage. The decision to travel is theirs—help them come to the right choice.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Speculation as to how this will impact our industry?