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The tourism industry - regardless of setbacks such as the collapse and subsequent instability of Eastern Europe; the Persian Gulf War; the civil war in the former Yugoslavia; the financial and sociopolitical turmoil in Southeast Asia, Japan, Russia, and Latin America; and the perpetual international state of affairs - has become the world's preeminent industry, contributing about $3.6 trillion to the global gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 255 million people (World Travel and Tourism Council 1997). As a key component of development in many countries, and despite its notable economic power and apparent resiliency, tourism is highly vulnerable to internal and external shocks as diverse as economic downturns, natural disasters, epidemic disease, and international conflicts.
While a natural disaster can impede the flow of tourism, terrorism risk tends to intimidate the traveling public more severely - as demonstrated by the realignment of travel flows and cancellation of vacations during periods of heightened terrorist activity. When tourism ceases to be pleasurable due to actual or perceived risks, tourists exercise their freedom and power to avoid risky situations or destinations. Substantial declines in global visitation were recorded during the height of terrorist activity in the 1980s and again during the 1991 Persian Gulf War; travelers either choose safer destinations or avoid travel altogether. Tourists can easily choose safer destinations, but the effects of negative occurrences on the local tourism industry and tourist destination can be profound.
Random acts of terrorism curtail travel activity until the public's memories of the publicized incidents fade. Persistent terrorism, however, can tarnish a destination's image of safety and attractiveness and jeopardize its entire tourism industry. Egypt, Israel, Northern Ireland, and Peru illustrate how ongoing political violence can adversely affect tourist perceptions of destinations and travel behavior. Although countries may experience terrorism differently, their tourism industries share similar challenges - some more drastic than others. These examples validate claims that terrorism absorbs each society's characteristics (Wahab 1995). Following a disastrous occurrence, the tourist destination and its related enterprises are put into the particularly difficult position of not only managing the crisis for themselves but also of meeting their responsibility to take care of their guests and clients. A mismanaged disaster can easily destroy the destination's image of safety while evolving into a long-term crisis for the local tourism industry. Through a domino effect, a tarnished image can threaten tourism sustainability, which, in turn, can jeopardize the area's long-term economic viability. The two primary objectives of this article are to discuss terrorism as a tourism crisis and to offer suggestions for managing the effects.
TERRORISM AS A TOURISM CRISIS
The tourism industry is highly vulnerable to natural (i.e., hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, torrential rains) and human-caused disasters - whether social or political (i.e., riots, insurgency, terrorism, crime, political upheaval, war, regional tensions). Regardless of their nature, disasters create difficult, often tragic, situations for the afflicted area and its residents. Over the years, media coverage of disasters has conveyed the resulting loss of life, human suffering, public and private property damage, and economic and social disruption. The ensuing negative publicity often characterizes the period after a disaster occurrence that lasts until full recovery is achieved and predisaster conditions resume. For a tourist destination, this period can represent a tourism crisis, which can threaten the normal operation and conduct of tourism-related businesses; damage a tourist destination's overall reputation for safety, attractiveness, and comfort by negatively affecting visitors' perceptions of that destination; and, in turn, cause a downturn in the local travel and tourism economy, and interrupt the continuity of business operations for the local travel and tourism industry, by the reduction in tourist arrivals and expenditures (Sonmez, Backman, and Allen 1994). Although the repercussions of a tourism crisis are likely to damage all destinations, the period of recovery can vary for each.
Often, large numbers of people have a vested interest in the health of the local tourism industry. Stakeholders and the local economy depend on outsiders' perceptions of the community. For this reason, it is highly unfortunate that tourism crises receive wide publicity because tourism centers are, by definition, places with high visibility. Regardless of whether tourism crises are triggered by natural or human-caused disasters, travelers will shy away from afflicted areas. Consequently, the local tourism industry will suffer from a lag-effect, in which a negative image caused by the disaster may well outlive physical damages and the tourism community/industry will have to find ways to manage the disaster's after effects. This, in turn, may cause an economic downturn that is as harmful to a destination's tourism sustainability as the initial disaster. Tourism crises triggered by terrorism are likely to be different from those caused by natural disasters. Although terrorism has been a political tool since early history, modern-day terrorism began in the latter part of this century. International terrorism increased rapidly during the late 1960s and early 1970s. After a brief lull in activity, the 1980s began and …