The Rise of European Tourism

The Normalization of Terrorism

By Leora Halpern Lanz President, LHL Communications | July 30, 2017

Co-authored by Eli Karakachian, Marketing Co-ordinator, LHL Communications

Have we become immune to the terrorism around us? Travel. It is a privilege for all of us. Some may say it is a right for all of us as human beings. Travel is the way to connect and learn from each other -- the manner to promote tolerance and understanding. The activity from which we all grow and evolve as citizens of the world. And yet, the last 16 years of world terror have shaped and quite literally directed how many of us travel.

A 21st Century of Terror in Travel

September 11, 2001 - the date which most significantly affected the travel and hospitality sectors in the 21st century and which changed the game for how travel is conducted, managed and impacted globally. “911” ignited a magnitude of shock and panic permeated not only in the United States but also around the world. With an initial sharp decrease in travelers, specifically to New York City and Washington DC, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) noted that the last four months of 2001 experienced an 11% drop of travelers worldwide (Hospitality-On 11/2015). This plunge was particularly strong in the Americas (-24%) and the Middle East (-30%). New industry cycles for U.S. hotel occupancies and average rates were launched in 2001, taking years for revenues to stabilize back to pre-911 levels.

Just a short year after 911, the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali was struck by three terrorist bombs, two hitting popular nightclubs and one detonating outside the United States consulate. Evidence indicated that the attack was retaliation from Osama bin Laden for the United States’ ‘War on Terror’ and Australia’s part in the liberation of East Timor. Once again, these bombings affected the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors with a 31% decline in travelers to Indonesia and a near 50% drop for tourism in Bali during the month of the attack, as later reported in The Guardian (December 2005).

Terror struck Madrid in 2004. Three days before Spain’s general elections, an Al-Qaeda inspired terrorist group bombed four trains in Madrid, ultimately killing 192 and injuring more than 2,000 people. These bombings were considered the deadliest terror attack in the country’s history, and in Europe since the Lockerbie bombing of 1988 (Washington Post 12/2016). This time, however, unlike the incidents in the United States and Indonesia, the tourism industry barely felt negative repercussions or drops in tourist travel to Spain or in Europe.

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.