Tourism in the Twenty-First Century: Global Terrorism Is Changing the Nature of Travel, but It's Not the Only Factor. an Aging Population, New Technology, and Other Key Trends Will Also Affect the Future of Tourism

Article excerpt

The travel industry made great strides during the 1990s thanks to inexpensive and safe air travel, hotels that were oases of tranquility, and inexpensive gasoline. But to succeed in the twenty-first century, the industry must overcome a host of new challenges, including fears of biochemical attacks, irregular gas prices, higher airfares, long lines at airports, and additional security clearances.

The March 2002 Passover massacre in Israel, which targeted a popular seaside hotel, is an example of the interconnection between tourism and terrorism as an act of political and economic war. The U.S. State Department's travel alerts and ongoing conflicts in places like Colombia, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa show that the threat to tourism is global. When terrorism strikes in key tourism-oriented nations, the travel industry's basic health is at risk.

The decline in tourism to the United States after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center is another example of the new interaction between terrorism and tourism. "Total international arrivals for USA in September 2001 dropped 29% when compared with September 2000," notes the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

WHY TERRORISTS ATTACK TOURISM CENTERS

Terrorists may seek out tourist destinations for a variety of reasons:

* An attack on a tourism center is an attack on that nation's economy.

For instance, fear of flying after September 11 hurt not only the airline business, but also the local economies of air travel-dependent destinations. Another impact is a decrease in foreign currencies and investments. To illustrate the importance of foreign currency to tourism, 48.5 million international visitors spent $95 billion in the United States at the end of the twentieth century.

That money helps the American tourist industry employ some 18 million people with a payroll of more than $160 billion.

* Terrorism is highly media-oriented. Terrorism seeks publicity, and tourist attractions like sporting events and festivals are likely to have media already at the site.

* Tourist attractions--museums, historic sites, and beautiful scenery--represent the spirit and essence of a nation.

* Tourist spots provide terrorists relative anonymity. Police and security professionals rarely know the identities or motivations of visitors at sites and events.

Most democratic nations pride themselves on the right to travel freely. Yet this freedom of travel has become a tool in terrorists' hands. The twenty-first century will have to find a way to permit freedom of personal travel while still protecting people from those who would seek to harm them.

Clearly, increasing security will be a must for air carriers, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Salad bars and buffets in hotel restaurants may become a thing of the past as risk managers begin to assess the possibility of terrorism and bioterrorism in their dining rooms.

Security experts in the travel industry must also address the possibility of a "suicide disease carrier" purposefully infecting whole populations. Such a planned attack would send an infected person by airplane to another country for the purpose of becoming a human biological weapon.

Other Tourism Trends

Other major forces impacting travel as the industry responds to terrorism include new technologies, the aging of society, and time pressures creating a growing demand for convenience.

New technology such as electronic devices for interpersonal communication will take on far greater importance in the travel industry. Teleconferencing will save time and money, and will also allay fears of kidnapping and terrorist attacks. The trend toward teleconferencing and interactive Web conferences (IWC) means that what was once a major investment in sophisticated equipment will soon become an affordable option. …