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Hospitality industry already dealing with sluggish demand

Travel advisories: relevance in today’s times

Hector D’souza, eTN India  Nov 23, 2011

(eTN) - The recent announcement made by the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand advising tourists to take caution when traveling to crowded places in India during the festival season, drew a series of protests from tour operators, the hotel industry, and authorities across the Indian nation. Besides creating apprehension in the minds of would-be visitors already booked and those planning future trips during winter and spring, the overburdened hospitality industry already dealing with sluggish demand due to recession and uncertainty, have one more humungous challenge to deal with. On the positive side, hotels, tourist vehicles, and airports having high security standards in India were kept out of the advisory, seeming to suggest stringent security systems at these locations have passed the test.

What prompted these countries to issue the warnings? Terrorism is probably the greatest spoilsport of tourism and causes as much damage (if not more) as the fury nature causes, in the form of earthquakes, cyclones, and tsunamis. A couple of factors may have prompted these countries to issue these warnings: the planned attacks of 2008 across major cities and tourist spots over a period of time, ending with the infamous attack on November 26, 2008; and terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Delhi at crowded spots in 2011 in less than two months probably prompting them to make comparisons to 2008.

Ever since the attacks of November 26, 2008 took place, security has improved tremendously with major railway stations, like the New Delhi railway station installing scanning machines outside their entrances. However, unlike the New Delhi metro, the surging crowd of passengers makes it humanely impossible to check each and every traveler unless the number of security staff and x-ray machines are trebled. This will soon happen, other railway stations will follow suit.

Foolproof security measure outside star category hotels and improved security outside monument sites has increased confidence levels of visitors. Information systems have helped tremendously, resulting in leads being shared by intelligence agencies effectively damming planned attacks. The challenge remains near market places, where the intensity and dynamics of crowd management keeps on changing by the minute. The same could probably be said of informal public gatherings where terrorists use the technique of surprise and deceit in an effective manner.

How do international tourists react to advisories? We live in an age where information is processed in milliseconds and transmitted across the world in a few minutes. The same could be said of social networking sites. The world has become much smaller than it was a decade ago; visitors are beginning to rely to a fair extent on information from local contacts.

The percentage of visitors with definite plans is increasing and so is last-minute travel. Tourists weigh in information from all sources before making final decisions. There is no denying cancellations will take place as insurance companies begin to include riders in trip cancellation clauses. An unfavorable warning will influence tourists sitting on the fence deciding their next holiday plans. Others remain unfazed and go about their plans, returning back with wonderful memories and proclaiming to friends and kin, "Now, what was all the fuss about?"

In the interest of the safety of their citizens visiting particular countries, some countries go about the task of issuing advisories when they perceive a threat is real; though the same may be terribly discomforting to the country against whom the advisory has been issued. While the advisory issued against India may seem uncalled for, perception of safety varies from country to country. One can reasonably conclude no one wishes to spoil the party by issuing advisories, and no country in the world wishes to give its international tourists a hard time. There are times when "invisible" enemies whose one point agenda is to create discord, mayhem, and bloodshed, need to be curbed. A travel advisory is one such "weapon" international communities use.

Travel advisories: relevance in today’s times
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