One has to wonder how many people will have to die at the hands of terrorists before Americans, and others, say "enough is enough" and simply spend their vacations in the USA, or other safer non-European countries. I originally posted this article after the attack at the Brussels airport. I updated the article after the airport attack in Istanbul, and now, France has once again become a target with 84 dead in Nice. How sad.
A recently poll on Twitter revealed that the attacks in Brussels would affect the travel plans of nearly 30% of respondents.
After the Istanbul attack, I posted a new poll with some pretty startling results. The number of people who said their travel plans would be affected more than doubled!
Even a 15% drop in tourism could cost thousands of tourism related jobs throughout Europe. Think of all the people employed at airlines, hotels, restaurants, tour companies, etc.
Now, some will argue that these acts of terror are random events and that they kill relatively few people over the course of a year. After all, more people die slipping in the bathtub than they do from acts of terror. However, terrorism gets a LOT of media attention. In fact, if the media covered bathtub deaths like they do terrorism, you would see politicians scrambling to make bathtubs illegal and the public would just start taking showers. The issue here is not the number of deaths or injuries, the issue is the media coverage and how that will affect tourism.
Basically, when you plan a vacation to Europe, you are consciously traveling into a war zone. After the ISIS attack in Brussels, ISIS declared that they are at war with Europe. Europe's response? (insert sound of crickets here) Just because Europe has chosen not to respond militarily, doesn't mean there is no war. It would appear that the majority of Europeans have just come to accept terrorism as part of life. But Americans? Not so much. If Europe continues to deny this threat and allows it to continue unabated, they will begin to suffer economically. At some point, people will just stop traveling to Europe. After all, what kind of vacation is it if you have to worry about being blown up at an airport?
As a travel journalist I know when tourism is suffering because we suddenly start getting invited to places that were previously lukewarm to media coverage. This happened a few years ago after the uprising in Egypt. When Americans stop traveling to a country, all of a sudden, that country wants media coverage to encourage travel. But, there is a point at which, even as a journalist, I will not take the risk.
Brussels airport after bombing - photo courtesy of REUTERS
The cruise industry is heavily invested in Europe. Look at the explosion (no pun intended) in European river cruising in the past 10 years. All it would take is for a couple of American seniors to be grabbed off the streets of a European city and have their heads chopped off on video and that will be the end of the industry. And, it's not like we are hard to spot. For the most part, Americans are 30 to 50 pounds heavier than everyone else in Europe, can be seen in public wearing shorts and sneakers, camera dangling from the neck, and nursing on a plastic water bottle. Why not just wear a t-shirt with a target printed on it? Sorry, but the truth hurts.
This problem is not going to be solved with metal detectors and heightened security measures. The only way to avoid the inevitable crumble of the tourism industry is for governments around the world to take this threat seriously. Basically, they, and we, are going to have to fight back. And, they had better start soon. Sadly, there is no evidence that this is going to happen. For now at least, Europe seems satisfied to just sit back and take whatever the terrorists throw at them. As a travel journalist, and someone who loves traveling to Europe, I don't see a happy ending for the tourism industry.
by Chris Dikmen
President of CruiseReport.com