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