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Tourism’s fragility

Di Antonio Caneva, 6 Novembre 2014

Tourism is as fragile as glass; the slightest disruption can undermine it.
Local wars, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters are sufficient to upset its system and plunge it into situations from which it is hard to recover.
We have had plenty of evidence of this in the past; we carry recent memories of Chernobyl, the tsunami that devastated Asia, the tribal wars in Africa and the attacks in Egypt, terrorism and, now, the Ebola epidemics.
Yesterday I talked with a lady who told me that she no longer goes on holidays because of Ebola; not just in Africa, also in the United States. I was surprised by this statement, so she explained that she felt it was dangerous to spend many hours in a plane with people “you don’t know where they come from”.
There is a natural and human tendency to indiscriminately fear certain destinations.
Life goes on, however, and economic systems also need continuity. Astoi, the tour operators’ association belonging to Confindustria, resolved to issue a press release pointing out that there is no relation between Kenya (one of the destinations most severely hit by the repercussions of the epidemics) and the Ebola virus. Astoi’s President Luca Battifora said “in these cases, rather than being victims of collective panic, we invite tourists to keep to the official information issued by authoritative sources, such as the Farnesina”.
Can a press release be s sufficient remedy? Certainly not: no results are achieved by sterile, however correct, information coming from one side. An example of this are the demonstrations held near the NATO base in Vicenza following the return of soldiers from Africa – all of them healthy.
So how to revive outgoing tourism, which is the very basis of business for many operators?
History has taught us that, in these conditions, even playing the price card is ineffective; travel opportunities in the world are so numerous that these types of actions yield scant results. There is, however, a case history of success: the action developed by the Maldives after the tsunami, which had created situations of danger in some islands. A communication campaign was developed to promote the product and encourage travellers to choose that destination as unique. Of course, you need determination and the will to invest, but the Maldives’ example (which in the meantime have not risen from sea level, rather the contrary) can definitely teach that press releases are nothing but palliatives, and the rescue of critical situations in tourism requires professional skills and investments.

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