By: Edwin Fuller
Founder and President of Laguna Strategic Advisors
A report issued earlier this year by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that travel and tourism remains resilient as people continue traveling despite the threats to the world and calls on governments to work on four areas to prepare for these crises to mitigate against the inevitable disruption.
The recent high-profile terrorism attacks in London and Manchester are the kind of incidents that have a huge emotional impact on people, making them feel the world is more dangerous and not as welcoming as it once was. They see these attacks as part of an accelerating pattern and think maybe they should put off going to wherever the last attack occurred.
Few things are as unsettling to our lives and the economy as terrorist activity. A recent Gallup poll found that 79% of respondents believe international terrorism is a critical threat to the US, the highest of other potential threats like the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, cyber-terrorism or the spread of infectious diseases.
At the same time, the economic impact of global terrorism has been rising over the past decade. The Institute of Economics and Peace put the cost at over $52 billion for 2014 alone. The 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington were estimated initially to have cost $27.2 billion, but according to The New York Times, the economic impact comes closer to $3.3 trillion when indirect and long-term expenditures are included.
Now, on the heels of the recent Manchester and London attacks, many in Europe are wondering whether tourists will still visit this summer.
Tourism Remains Resilient in Face of Terrorism
If the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is right, they need not worry. Although the pace of growth may slow, says WTTC, the overall growth rate should show an upward tick by yearend. The group says that it takes tourism 13 months to recover from a terrorist attack. By comparison, they note, tourism takes longer to bounce back from a medical epidemic (21 months), an environmental disaster (24 months) and political unrest (27 months). Recoveries from natural disasters often take longer because it requires the rebuilding of infrastructure.
Last year, WTTC notes, global tourism grew by 3.3% as more than one billion persons crossed their national borders to travel abroad. Overall, the group said, worldwide travel and tourism growth outpaced that of the global economy for the 6th consecutive year, despite ongoing terror threats.
WTTC Report Calls for Government Action
Earlier this year, WTTC issued a report that confirms in countries where attacks happened in 2016, visitor spending in the country declined as the impacts of the initial attacks were compounded by inaccurate or extended travel advisories, encouraging consumers to seek perceived “safer” destinations for their holidays.
For example, following the 2016 terrorism attacks in Europe, inbound tourism spending was down in Belgium by 4.4%, by 7.3% in France and 22% in Turkey. Nevertheless, travel and tourism remained resilient as travel shifted to other European destinations like Bulgaria and Cyprus that grew 12.4% and 17.1% respectively and to Spain and Portugal that experienced robust growth (4.6% and 5.2%).
Looking ahead, WTTC called on governments to work on four areas to prepare for future crises:
Integrate private sector tourism companies into all security planning
- Implement electronic visas to enhance security, using biometrics and technology
- Create crisis response plans, which encompass a cohesive media response
- Increase intelligence sharing across borders.
Everyone agrees, terrorism, however heinous, will not go away anytime soon. So, as you make your travel plans for this summer, keep in mind that your chances of being caught in a terror attack while traveling are negligible. Pick a destination with which you are comfortable and go about exploring a new culture and doing business globally. Most of all, remember, you, as a tourist, are a force for peace in the world.