Tourists are less and less bothered about bombings in busy holiday destinations. Social psychologist and tourism expert Ton van Egmond thinks that they may be getting used to such atrocities. Little research has been done into the results of bomb attacks on tourism, but he believes these are becoming increasingly less important to tourists. Only last Sunday evening, many people were killed or injured in a bomb attack in a predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood in Istanbul in Turkey.
Mr van Egmond:
“Tourists visiting countries where there is a risk of attacks get used to the idea, especially if they come from somewhere with similar problems. It begins to be a part of their ordinary lives.”
Attacks in Turkey and Egypt in the 1990s did have a major impact, as of course did the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. In Egypt, tourists travelling around the country were the first to be targeted; later, beach resorts were also bombed.
Tourists were also shocked by the 2002 Bali bombings, in which 202 people, mainly Western visitors, were killed. The attacks led the Dutch government to advise against travelling to the Indonesian island. A second attack in 2005, however, caused less commotion even though dozens of people were killed.
Security and the related issue of crime remain important reasons for visiting or not visiting a country. Mr van Egmond gives the example of Colombia.
“The most obvious country is Colombia. It has everything and would be a great tourist destination, but everybody thinks of it as infamously unsafe and that’s why it remains the world’s least developed country in terms of tourism.”
He thinks that we just expect to be held hostage or become the victims of crime in Colombia. He has the distinct idea that crime has more influence on the choice of holiday destination than the chance of terrorist attack.
Thailand has a much better image than Colombia despite serious unrest in the south of the country. It remains the top exotic destination for both individual and group Dutch holidays. Tourists see little street crime in Thailand.
Organised group holidays
Do today’s tourists prefer organised group trips which offer more protection than individual holidays? Mr van Egmond says they do, but suspects that more than one reason lies behind the preference.
“The number of group trips from the Netherlands is increasing, but this is mainly due to the growing number of retired people. If you look at the United States, you see that people have been less inclined to visit other countries since the Twin Towers attacks, especially if it’s not in an organised group. The US market is far more orientated towards all-inclusive holiday resorts, with everything, if you like, within four walls. Mind you, that’s got something to do with a feeling of safety again.”