Since 1967, Israel has witnessed a growing demand by the international tourism market for its unique mix of tourist attractions. Consequently, over the years, tourism has become Israel's leading exporting service industry, ameliorating the country's acute balance of payments and unemployment problems. Nevertheless, the shape of this long-term trend cannot be characterized by steady growth, as a result of several wars and acts of terrorism.
In between periods of security unrest, and especially since the Middle East peace talks began in 1991, Israel has witnessed an increase in international tourist arrivals. The performance of the Israeli tourism industry during these relaxed periods proves that Israel has the potential to become a leading tourist destination in the Middle East. But are peace and geopolitical stability the only prerequisites for ensuring long-term success of previously disrupted tourism industries? Or perhaps achieving such a goal is attainable only on the basis of carefully implemented crisis management policies. As yet, these questions have not been systematically examined and no study has appeared with integrated policy recommendations and crisis management guidelines.
Hence, using the example of the Israeli tourism industry, the aim of this article is to
1. characterize the determinants of the destructive mechanism involving periods of decline and recovery of Israel's tourism industry,
2. critically evaluate the response and effectiveness of policies and measures taken by both the Israeli government and the private sector, and
3. based on the Israeli experience, develop guidelines on how governments and the private sector should manage tourism crises and tourism recovery.
Steps to put the issue of tourism and security on research and policy-making agendas have been taken, since the mid-1980s, as a result of the terror activity that affected Western Europe and some Mediterranean countries (D'Amore and Anuza 1986; Reeves 1987; Ryan 1991). The global tourism consequences of the 1991 Gulf War have initiated further academic discussions on this issue (Hollier 1991; Ryan 1993; Mansfeld 1996). In 1995 an international conference on tourism, safety, and security was held in Ostersund, Sweden. There, for the first time, the relationship between tourism and security and safety was discussed academically on an international basis. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) has also shown an interest and commitment to the problem of safety and security. In 1996 it published a safety and security guide for tourism decision makers but failed to address the issue of terrorism and wars and their devastating effects on the tourism industry (WTO 1996). The first attempt to incorporate both theoretical and applied aspects of such interrelations based on worldwide case studies was made by Pizam and Mansfeld (1996) in an edited volume Tourism, Crime and International Security Issues. This volume concluded that controlling a tourism crisis in the wake of security situations could be successful only if a comprehensive crisis management approach is implemented.
Several assumptions intensify the need to adopt such an approach. Many researchers have pointed out first the intense economic ramifications of wars and terrorism on the tourism industry of a given host country. They all seem to agree that long periods of decline and stagnation in tourist arrivals (as in Croatia or the northern occupied part of Cyprus), as well as frequent cycles of decline and recovery (as has happened in Israel, Egypt, Turkey, or Northern Ireland), cause detrimental economic impact (Enders and Sandler 1991; Enders, Sandler, and Parise 1992; Mansfeld 1994; Hall and O'Sullivan 1996; Sonmez and Graefe 1995; U.S. Department of State 1995, 1996; Aziz 1995; Wahab 1996).
Second, existing and newly emerging tourist destinations that represent unique and highly attractive tourist products are more likely to experience a rapid recovery from such crises. Examples of such relatively fast recovery and/or rapid development of tourism as a reactivating economic measure have been noted in Israel, Egypt, the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey, Albania, Jordan, and Mozambique. These short recovery periods can be explained by the growing generating markets' demand for (1) existing yet highly attractive destinations and (2) new and as yet "unexplored" destinations. This pressure has become so strong that tour operators and tourists alike were, with little hesitation, willing to replace their destination image from insecure to secure once the situation had calmed down (Malinovski, Backman, and Allen 1995; Weber and Vrdoljak-Salamon 1995; Hall and O' Sullivan 1996; O'Neill and Fitz 1996; Mansfeld and Kliot 1996).
Third, one of the main problems facing destinations that were hit by tourism crises resulting from security turmoil is the evolving negative image. Because tourists do not tend to thoroughly check the reality behind conveyed images, these images become highly biased and distorted. In some cases, as in Montenegro during the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia or in Cyprus during the 1991 Gulf War, even regions and countries that were not part of the conflict were assigned negative images. This spillover effect is damaging the tourism industry and must be dealt with …