Modern-age tourism is a hyper-mobile industry. It is closely tied to global economy. Leading tourism specialists and researchers admit that influence of potential political and security crises will likely grow in the future, as noted by head of Turība business school’s Tourism and Hospitality Faculty Professor, Dr. of Geography Maija Rozīte.
She notes that demand in tourism is extremely sensitive towards political violence and terrorist attacks. This is because tourists evaluate the level of safety of destinations before travelling. Political instability, healthcare, situation with crime, terrorist threat level and natural catastrophes are among the chief risk factors.
Terrorist attacks cause tourism to decline 20%
Terrorism has significant influence over the tourism industry. It is considered the biggest threat of the 21st century. While the threat of terrorism was high only in some countries in the ‘90s (Spain, Northern Ireland and Egypt), after 9/11, terrorism became a global threat. Following 9/11, tourism demand around the world declined by 10%; by 20% in USA. This caused losses worth USD 105 billion (Goodrich, 2001).
Political crises and international terrorism have caused significant damage to Egypt’s tourism industry. The number of foreign tourists travelling to this country has declined by one-third – from 14.1 million in 2010 to 9.3 million in 2015.
A single terrorist attack can scare off 140,000 potential tourists
Unfortunately, it is too often that terrorists choose highly populated areas as their targets. Research in Spain showed that a single terrorist attack can scare off approximately 140,000 potential tourists, notes Rozīte.
Each separate terrorist attack can be analysed from multiple different perspectives: chosen target; its effect on local economy and everyday lives, neighbouring countries, the region and tourist inflow. Survey results also show that the impact of terrorist attacks differs based on tourism destinations, products and tourists.
Tourism industry can recover within 6-12 months
There are countries traditionally considered safe; where terrorist attacks cause only short-term effect. It has been observed that in some cases, when no terrorist attacks are repeated, tourism industry can recover within 6-12 months. After the Bali terrorist attack of 2002, the Indonesian government spend USD 200 million to recover its tourism industry. Two years would pass before the country’s tourism industry could recover to its pre-crisis level (Pambudi, McCaughey and Smyth, 2008). Countries that associate with political, religions and rebellious groups that have a high terrorism threat level (Israel and Pakistan) have tourism industries that have successfully adapted to such a situation. Separate incidents usually have minor influence on the state of things. Potential tourists of those countries do not consider terrorist attacks a long-term threat.
Declining flow of tourists to Europe
An analysis of the influence of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels on the tourism industry shows that the general effect will be felt in a short-term and long-term perspective. First of all, there will be a reduction of tourists travelling to Europe as a tourism region. It has been noted already that Asian travellers are more likely to spend vacations within their own regions. Secondly, it is likely that there will be a halt in planned travel arrangements to Belgium and other countries, especially those with a large number of Muslim communities, like Turkey. Thirdly, we will experience financial consequences, because countries and companies will likely invest more money in security measures, which, in turn, will increase costs of services and budget expenditure.
Local tourism as an alternative
Analysis of crisis situations shows that more often than not they provide more opportunities and challenges for tourism destinations and the industry in general. It is proven that tourism is a very flexible form of business. Local tourism has a chance to develop in situations when international instability and risks rise. Local tourism can help compensate the loss of foreign tourists.
According to Rozīte, Latvia, as a country with a low terrorist threat level, can become a place to replace some of the less secure regions and cities in Europe. It is predicted that Europeans will less often choose distant destinations, giving more preference to short-distance travel destinations, including neighbouring states and regions that can be reached by car.