Tourism s Importance in a World in Crisis
By : Dr Peter Tarlow
The last three months have not been easy ones. Politically the world has seen some of its greatest threats since the end of World War II. Economically, Europe is still very much in shambles, the US has fewer unemployed but it also has fewer people employed, and those who are employed often have low paying jobs. From a security perspective, the Middle East is in flames.
European cowardice and the US’s desire to lead-from-behind have created a world in which terrorists no longer fear repercussions, and groups such as Hamas simply believe that they can manipulate a naïve public.
Tourism officials do not know what Russia’s next move in the Ukraine or other eastern European nations may be, and or the first time in decades military leaders are quietly contemplating the possibility of another European war.
Sadly, the world is now becoming accustomed to the kidnapping of young women as a tool of war, a phenomenon not seen or used since the Middle Ages. Mass mutilations and inaccurate statistics have become so commonplace that they are longer “news worthy”. Crime and murder in many cities is now a normal part of life. For example, Brazil was successful in maintaining quiet during the world cup, but the crime wave that often threatens to overwhelm places such as Rio de Janeiro returned right after the lights went out at Rio’s famous Maracanhã stadium.
To add to the world’s problems, diseases such as Ebola are not only threatening countries in western Africa but have sparked fear that travelers may spread the disease to other parts of the world.
Airlines and airports are now considering how they will protect local communities from airborne contaminable diseases. Finally, due to international biased reporting, many around the world simply no longer believe the media.
In a world with lazy and biased journalism, the public’s right to know has been reduced to hearsay and rumors and a game of numbers.
Tourism is part of the world and what happens in the world of health, in the economy or in places of war, impact all of us. For example, when Israel had to implement the screening of passengers before being allowed to board planes, the world laughed, but today scanners, the removal of articles and clothing, and the taking our of computers is the norm rather than the exception.
Whole generations are now growing up believing that travel is no longer fun but work, and that airports may be dangerous places. Tourism cannot solve all of the world’s problems, but tourism leaders can do much to try to make the world if not a safer place than at least a less dangerous place.
Here are a few of the points that tourism leaders need to publicize about the tourism industry.
-Tourism is a major job producer. Tourism not only employs millions of people around the world, but provides young people and some of the less fortunate honorable paying jobs. Entry-level positions provide much more than a paycheck.
They also teach important skills such as communication skills, customer service skills, and time management skills.
-Tourism cannot ensure peace, but it offers an additional tool to bring about peace. Ever since Cain murdered Abel violence has been a part of humanity, and it would be absurd to believe that tourism can be the single solution to end war. Nevertheless, tourism can be one more instrument in lessening hatred and misunderstanding between peoples.
Often it is easier to hate people who are abstractions rather than individuals. To be an instrument of peace, however, tourism must develop programs that allow serious dialogue and respect. Simply being the waiter for a person from another culture is not enough. Instead, the tourism industry, the world’s largest vehicle of interpersonal communication, needs to develop creative means by which people go beyond their xenophobia and begin a process of mutual respect.
-Know the facts. Tourism cannot be divorced from the place in which it occurs. That means know the facts. Do not just depend on the local media, but develop an information council that can provide your agency with accurate statistics and realities. For example, in case of a pandemic have a group of medical advisors who can update you and provide your agency with an accurate picture of the changing reality in your locale.
-Tell the truth and only the truth. If tourism is to be a credible industry, its leaders must tell the truth, even when the wish the truth were different from the current reality. For example, If your industry is in a danger zone, state it, then state what you are doing to protect visitors or if you advise people to come at another time. A danger zone may be one prone to crime, to wars or to natural disasters. Do not try to make a profit now at the cost of your future reputation.
-Have more than one crisis management plans ready. For example, small tourism related businesses are going to be more crisis-prone than large ones with deeper pockets. Develop a tourism crisis fund before a crisis occurs to help these smaller business survive in troubling times In a like manner have medical crises plans (there can be several crises occurring that the same time) ready so that you already have lists of foreign language speakers available, evacuation plans and communication plans in place.
-Develop multiple recovery plans before a crisis (or crises) occur. Recovery plans need to include much more than a full marketing strategy. They also need to include an economic stabilization plan, a full physical recovery plan, a coordination plan so that local law enforcement, health officials and government officials coordinate their efforts and present a unified program.
-Do not bicker in public. The worst thing that a tourism industry in crisis can do is to begin to criticize itself in full public view. Crisis are a time to pull resources together rather than tear your political or business opponent apart.
After the crisis has passed there will be amble time to fight with one’s opponents.
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