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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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.