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The Role of Media in the Relationship Between Terrorism and Tourism - A Friend or a Foe?

The Role of Media in the Relationship Between Terrorism and Tourism - A Friend or a Foe?
Author: Martta Pukki
3 Commentries

This article studies the relationship between terrorism and tourism and the role of media in this relationship. It considers the difficulty of categorising the impacts of media either positive or negative regarding the tourism industry.

Key words: Terrorism, Tourism industry, Mass-media

Tourism, as the world's largest industry has been a target for terrorist attacks for a long time. Tourism is a global industry and is highly vulnerable to natural and human-caused disasters (Sönmez, S. F. et al, 1999) and terrorism is one of the disasters that affect on both supply and demand of tourism industry (Araña, J. E. & León, J. C. 2008). When terrorism is targeted on tourists or tourism destination, media coverage is guaranteed (Sönmez, S. F. et al, 1999). It has been studied why tourism is such a favourable target for terrorism and Sönmez et al (1999) suggested that large groups of international tourists, speaking different foreign languages and looking foreign provide camouflage and safety for terrorists. Sönmez (1998) states that terrorists achieve a lot by targeting tourists and that when tourism is state-sponsored the attack is not only on the tourism industry but on the government as well.

Because tourism is such an intangible experience, it is highly dependent on positive images and publicity. Media has the power to impact the attitudes of the public, especially when the attitudes are not fully formed (Sönmez, S. F., 1998). When a destination is perceived to be at high risk to be a target of a terrorist attack, tourists tend to avoid it. Therefore, trough the mass media, television and newspapers, reports about the attacks are repeated, and fear and anxiety are increased among tourists. Referring to what have been said above, media plays a big role in the post-terrorism behaviour. In fact, Shpiro (2002) even argues that media itself is a battlefield and that the fight against terrorism does not only occur in, for example Afganistan, but also on television screens and front pages of newsletters around the world.

Shpiro (2002) explains that terrorists are well aware of media as a tool for publicity and in fact are very keen to use this tool. He used examples of previous terrorism acts and how terrorists have used the media; in the 9/11 attacks the two aircrafts crashing into the World Trade Centre departed Boston airport almost simultaneously, but the terrorists delayed the second airplane, ensuring that television cameras would be present to capture their actions when they crashed in to the North Tower. Other examples that Shpiro (2002) gives are the European terrorism groups, IRA and ETA, who have a policy of alerting the police forces before their actions to minimise the damage and to give a chance to evacuate the buildings or areas the attacks are aimed at. These alerts are often accompanied by a call to the press to make sure that the media has time to reach the scene before the actions are carried out.

When talking about media's role, it can be then said that as long as the disaster is covered in media as a negative thing, tourists see the destination as an undesirable choice when making holiday decisions. Sönmez, et al (1999) state, that "the random acts of terrorism will curtail travel activity until the public's memories of the publicized incidents fade". Shpiro (2002) is also in favour of the role of media in the battle against terrorism and even states that an effective media policy has become a crucial part of the politics of conflict and an important tool to fight against terrorism.

Based on these findings it can be argued whether media is improving the situation for tourism industry or is it just making things worse? On one hand media works as a source of information for, not just tourists, but all the people in the world. Media can also work as a catalyst for governmental actions, such as setting safety and security policies. But on the other hand, media is a tool for terrorists to gain attention and reach their goal of intimidating people and achieving political turmoil. When it comes to tourism destinations, the role of media is crucial as an advertise method because of the intangible nature of tourism experience.

It can therefore be seen contradictory and some argue that its role as a source of information should be seen as a responsible democratic media and that in order to prevent more attacks, media should reduce its attention on terrorism (Shpiro, S., 2002). Even if this happened, would it work to decrease the terrorism attacks? Shpiro argues this theory by explaining the competitive nature of media industry and illustrating that even if some media portals or organisations reject the terrorists, they will always find an open ear. Therefore using the media as a tool to decrease terrorism activity is unfortunately challenging.


Araña, J. E., León, C. J. (2008) 'The Impact Of Terrorism On Tourism Demand', Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 35 (no. 2) pp 299-315

Shpiro, S. (2002) 'Conflict Media Strategies and the Politics of Counter-Terrorism', Politics, vol. 22 (iss. 2) pp 76-85

Sönmez, S. F., et al (1999) 'Tourism in Crisis: Managing the Effects of Terrorism', Journal of Travel Research, vol. 38 (iss. 1) pp 13-18
The Role of Media in the Relationship Between Terrorism and Tourism - A Friend or a Foe?
Author: Kimberley Banks
I think that this paper has delved into a very interesting argument concerning terrorism within the tourism industry; the role in which the media plays and could play, is indeed a debatable one. It is an area which has gained past academic interest. The two sides of the argument are clearly stated within the discussion, it is also well written in such a way to encourage commentary.

The paper touched upon how terrorists achieve much by targeting the tourism industry of a destination, and this is undeniably true. Tourism is, a target, due to the variety of people within a certain country acting as a camouflage, but also motives run deeper and are likely to be complex. This could have been further considered within the paper. Tourism is the main source of income for almost 40% of the world's countries, making the industry an irresistible object for attack; effectively target this dependable source and you effectively cause havoc within the destination. As described by Taylor (2006, p.171) "it is sadly ironic that in areas where the traditional economic base is barley capable of sustaining basic sustenance, and where tourism would bring a new stream of income and economic diversification, that terrorist attacks predominate" this makes it increasingly difficult for some developing countries to build up there tourism industry and economic stability.

As the paper considered, it is inevitable as global media access evolves and tourists responsiveness becomes more apparent, terrorists will increasingly use this to their advantage in gaining attention. The media will thus repeatedly exacerbate these occurrences, heightening tourist's perceived risks. It could be thought of, in this sense, as a vicious negative cycle for a destination to overcome. It was clearly pointed out in the paper how the tourist's image perception of a destination is overly important because of its 'intangibility'. In some cases, it is considered that the tourists perceived risk of a destination is often not logical and over exaggerated (Taylor, 2006). The media can act in dramatising a situation, and whilst this is occurring, it becomes increasingly difficult for a destination to pull itself back from a terrorist attack. These negative sides to media intervention have been clearly considered within the paper. It is however, less apparent how the media could aid in the fight against terrorism, this is an area of the discussion which could have been further explained to clear any confusion.

A particularly interesting point was made within the discussion as to whether, if terrorist attacks were to become less documented and gain less media attention, would this have an impact upon the number of attacks? It is definitely a difficult and challenging argument to consider. Some suggest that modern day terrorists and the mass media have become inevitably linked by means of mutual benefit. Terrorists ultimately want to make their demands known through global publicity, and acts of terrorism (particularly those that are ongoing) provide sensational news stories that effectively boost audience figures and ratings (Wilkinson, 1997). This adds a further complex dimension to the debate.

Taylor, P.A (2006) Getting Them to Forgive and Forget: Cognitive Based Market Responses to Terrorist Attacks. International Journal of Tourism Research [online]. Issue 8. Accessed via <www.ebscohost.com>

Wilkinson, P. (1997) The Media and Terrorism: A Reassessment. Terrorism and Political Violence [online]. 9(2) pp.51-64. Accessed via < http://www.informaworld.com>
Media - Foe or Friend?
Author: Agnieszka Gwizdz
The reason I have chosen to provide a commentary on this paper, is because it investigates the role of media in relation to terrorism and tourism. Due to the fact that my paper also covered some aspects concerning media influence, I found this article interesting and wanted to look at this issue from a different perspective. This summary is a well presented piece of work, which, in a clear and understandable way demonstrates positive and negative impacts of media in respect to the tourism industry. Throughout the summary, there were many aspects discussed, in order to examine and determine whether media is improving the situation for the tourism industry, or is just adding to the problems witnessed.

In the first paragraph, it has been suggested that camouflage and safety for terrorists are the main reasons why tourism is such a favourable target for terrorism. Despite the fact this is strongly agreed, there are also other factors, such as a desire of perpetrators to be provided with a higher profile in the media (Cooper et al., 2008). This should have also been mentioned.

The author of this study strongly emphasised that tourism is, to a large degree, dependent on positive images and publicity. This is strongly agreed as the negative image of any holiday destination caused by, for e.g. terrorist attack, results in reduced tourist activity and economic damage to the tourism industry (Page and Connell, 2009). Simply speaking, tourist who gleaned a negative image of a place is more likely to choose different holiday destination.

In the third paragraph, the author provided a good example of how media was used by terrorists in order to gain publicity. The media impact on tourism after the attack from 9/11 was huge. In general, intense media coverage highly influenced tourists' behaviour relating to travel. In consequence many flights were cancelled and people stopped travelling to New York, due to fear.

There is also a mention, that in order to prevent more attacks, media should reduce its attention on terrorism. However, what is also important and has not been mentioned yet, is the fact that media is frequently the only source of information on an issue available to the audience (Sonmez, 1998). That said, if the media was not there to report on terrorism, how would people around the world receive all the information about the political and social situation? Conversely, does it mean that a negative media image is better than no information at all?

It has to be mentioned, that many people travel to sites of terrorism to pay their respects for the victims of disaster. Without being informed of these external shocks through the media, people may not know and would not travel to such places.

The author also offered up the aspect of media being the catalyst for government action, such as setting safety and security policies and a tool to fight against terrorism. This is a very interesting and clever point, however if this was justified by an example it would be easier to understand.

Overall, the summary provides a range of different impacts of media on tourism. By offering the range of both positive and negative impacts, the author kept a good balance between the two.


Cooper, C., Fletcher, J., Fyall, A., Gilbert, D. and Wanhill, S. (2008) Tourism: Principles and Practice, 4th ed. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Page, S. J. and Connell, J. (2009) Tourism: A Modern Synthesis, 3rd ed. UK: Cengage Learning.

Sonmez, S. F. (1998) Tourism, Terrorism and Political Instability. Annals of Tourism Research [online]. 25(2) pp. 416-456 [cited 20th April 2010]. Available at: <http://www.sciencedirect.com>

The impact that the media plays on terrorism -How it can affect tourism?
Author: Assa Diarisso
I have chosen this paper as I wanted to highlight how the media plays a significant role in the realisation of such actions: TERRORISM.

You have made a very good link between the impact that the media plays on terrorism moreover you have also well stressed how it can affect tourism. The scholar Brian Jenkins declared that "terrorism is theatre", and terrorists themselves have long seen it much the same way. The purpose of any terrorist attack is to get attention of the publicity, to let the governments know what they want to say and what they want to get.

One of the most important things for terrorists, I believe, is not the principle of pure violence, but a desire to put some thought into the minds of people, and visible violence is only a way to do it, because it always draws the people's attention and, of course the media's one. Terrorism is described as "a criminal act that influences an audience beyond their immediate victim."(Frey, 2005).For example: The Black September Organisation killed 11 Israelis at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and although they were the immediate victims, the attack also targeted around 1 billion people who were watching the event on television.

Anders and Sandler state "When deciding on an appropriate vacation spot tourists consider not only the exchange rate, costs, scenery, temperature and other amenities, but also the risk of terrorism."(Enders and Sandler, 2006). for instance, instead of visiting London, someone may choose to visit a different British city because of London's association with terrorist attacks. This is where terrorism begins to affect the travel and tourism industry. "Terrorists have often used tourists as targets, because they are easy to attack, and attract a lot of attention from the media." (Frey, 2005).

Experts say terrorists have learned to adapt their methods and messages as the media have evolved. Hijacking passenger airplanes, for example, became a common terrorist strategy only after the launch of the first international television satellite, which allowed viewers worldwide to watch hijackings as real-time dramas. The growth of satellite networks such as the Arabic cable news network al-Jazeera and of the video capabilities of the World Wide Web let terrorists make video recordings—for example, ones showing the murder of Daniel Pearl or Palestinian suicide bombers' last testaments—that can be seen even if CNN and the BBC decide not to show them.

What are you trying to indicate by the word challenging in your sentence : "therefore using the media as a tool to decrease terrorism activity is unfortunately challenging"?
There are many proposed solutions to the problem of terrorism the one that I encountered most frequently in my research for this paper is the argument that we must ignore terrorists and they will "go away". Nacos' article starts out with the quote, "... Without massive news coverage the terrorist act would resemble the proverbial tree falling in the forest." Solving the terrorist problem would be much more complex than simply ignoring terrorists.

Enders, W. & Sandler, T. (2006)The Political Economy of Terrorism. Cambridge University Press.
Frey, B.S (2005)Dealing with Terrorism: Stick or Carrot? Edward Elgar Publishing.
Nacos, B.L., Accomplice or Witness? The Media's Role in Terrorism. April 2000: Current History. 04 March 2002.
International Terrorism (2010) information: [online]. [Accessed 30 April 2010].Available at: