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Team Terrorist or Team Tourist, Who Will the Media Decide

Team Terrorist or Team Tourist, Who Will the Media Decide
Author: Matthew Burton
3 Commentries
If the tourist as a consumer knew nothing of terrorist acts in foreign countries, then such factors of terrorism such as severity and frequency would have no impact on tourists' travel decisions. However in the 'postmodern' world that we live in, it is virtually impossible to avoid acknowledging acts of terrorism, due to the substantial coverage from news broadcasting media. Whilst it is of benefit to the tourist to be aware of such risks, it is the intention of this paper to leave you questioning whether what is represented of terrorism, by the media, is; 'authentic', bias in order to benefit themselves or utilised by the government as a method of political propaganda.

There is evidence to prove that terrorism as with tourism has evolved, as have the terrorists who no longer care for how politics and public opinion are affected by their actions, which is why he suggests that terrorism is becoming increasingly severe. The reason behind terrorist actions being so severe is that the targets of terrorism are not the victims of it, but in fact those at home viewing their actions through the media, tragically, the easiest method of attracting the media are the shock tactic that is common place in modern tourism. Tourism has been an increasingly popular target for terrorism due to the high number of potential casualties, which draws in the media.

There is a copious amount of evidence to support the argument that the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. had a significant impact on tourism around the whole world. This can be seen through the study of Bonham, Edmonds and Mak (2006) in their analysis of tourism in the U.S.A. and Hawaii post September 11th; they recognise a significant decrease of inbound tourism, particularly from Japan. The question remains how do Japanese people in Japan know what happened in New York on September 11th? The answer to this can only be through media reports of the incident, thus adding substance to the idea that the media are knowingly assisting terrorism, unless you are naive enough to believe they are unaware of the symbiotic relationship that can be seen to exist between the media and terrorism.

Should you think back about your personal experience of mediated information regarding terrorism, you may conjure up such images as; flattened buildings, wounded women and children as well as a figure representing the number of people injured or killed. The media have notoriously been linked historically as vessels for political propaganda, specifically in America during elections. Many academics believe the state to control most of the world media; if this is the case then it stands to reason that the state would produce negatively emotive language and images of terrorism and then condemn it thus gaining popularity.

Terrorism does not necessarily cause a nativistic mindset in tourists to not travel, however many authors believe that most tourists simply avoid destinations affected by terrorism, Bonham et al. provide evidence to support this argument too in relation to the increase of inbound tourism in Hawaii after the September 11th attacks. Another such example can be seen in relation to the Arab Spring in 2010, which saw inbound tourism in North Africa decline but increase in the Mediterranean. Terrorism is therefore an external factor that influences the tourist population density of affected destinations negatively but positively influences destinations seen as an alternative.

Perceived risk is noted as a key factor in the motivation of tourists by several authors, including Nacos (2002), who suggests that the media could be utilised to be detrimental to the desired effects of terrorism on tourism, through methods such as readiness programs and diplomatic initiatives, surely if you were prepared and believed the government were prepared you would have a reduced level of perceived risk when travelling.

Disinformation is the final significant method by which the media could be seen to influence your personal view of terrorism. This can be accomplished by providing false information through the media for the terrorist organisations to intercept, thus reducing their ability to attack tourism. However it may be used more sinisterly by governments, who a selection of authors suggest provide their own country with false information in order to reduce national hysteria after incidents such as September 11th. Hall, Timothy and Duval (2003) exemplify this strategy in their review of tourist media and the way that when tourist executives were asked about September 11th they would talk about rebuilding and recovery, not fear.

This paper has shown you how terrorism and the media are symbiotic, in that terrorism needs the media to spread their messages further, whilst the media need terrorism to generate shocking new headlines. It should also be clear to you that currently terrorism is presented by the media in a bias manor, showing only the worst images and using emotively negative language, usually for the benefit of the state. There are methods through which the media could reduce terrorism's impact on tourism; however that would not be in the best interest of the state and subsequently terrorism can only be a negative influence factor of the tourist.


Bonham, C., Edmonds, C. and Mak. J. (2006) The Impact of 9/11 and Other Terrible Global Events on Tourism in the U.S. and Hawaii. Economic Series. 87, pp. 4-5.

Hall, C.M., Timothy, D.J. and Duval, D.T. (2003) Safety and Security in Tourism: Relationships, Management and Marketing. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing. 15 (2-4).

Nacos, B.L. (2002) Mass-Mediated Terrorism: The central role of the media in terrorism and counterterrorism. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Discussion paper review - By Sophie Freeman
Author: Sophie L. Freeman
This paper effectively explores the role of the media within terrorism, and engages the reader, encouraging them to think about the effect the media has globally when reporting such incidents, and how it consequently aids terrorism in spreading its message to an international audience.
The paper could be criticised as its main focus appears to be on the media's role in the world of terrorism, with less focus on the affect terrorism has on tourism. With this being said, the paper does still address some key findings on the effect the wide broadcast of terrorism incidents can have on tourist motivations, and decisions to travel, or more importantly to not travel, to certain destinations due to significant events, and the negative media attention the destination receives as a consequence of this.
The paper begins to explore the notion that whilst tourists have the right to be aware of the stability of a country before they make an informed travel choice and that often what the media show is biased representation of the terrorist attack, with many negative connotations, the paper does not explore an opposing argument for this. For example, it is mentioned that when tourist executives were asked about September 11th they would talk about rebuilding and recovery, not fear. The paper could have explored this further, investigating whether after attacks these comments from tourism industries are included in post event media coverage of the incident, and whether or not such comments outweigh the initially bad media attention and restore tourists' faith in visiting the destination again.
The paper also mentions the world wide impacts the events of September 11th 2001 caused, with a significant decrease in inbound tourism, particularly from Japan. It may have been helpful to have included some statistics regarding inbound tourism to the US prior to the attack and after the attack to support this argument, as it would explore the general effect on tourism the attack had caused for the US, as well as figures to support whether Japanese tourists had been the most persuaded tourist group by the media.
Over all, the discussion paper successfully captures the reader's attention and effectively begins to explore the links between terrorism and the media and the implications this causes for the tourism industry. It would be incredibly interesting to read the full conference paper and see how the subject has been discussed and how the topic has been supported and the academic sources which have been used. A good effort exploring a modern and relative topic, well done.
Commentary by Rhian Fletcher
Author: Rhian Fletcher
Burton has portrayed some very interesting points in his paper.

Burton mentions that terrorism and tourism have evolved and that terrorists no longer care for public opinion consequently leading to more severe attacks. However, many also say that terrorist attacks have increased in impact to gain more mass media attention (Weimann, 2008; Nacos, 2007; Weimann and Winn, 1994; Wilkinson, 1997). Weimann (2008) also disagrees, and says that terrorists want to highlight awareness and an understanding of their cause, now more than ever.

Burton goes on to mention that tourists are used by terrorists, not as victims, but as a means of creating more uproar through media attention. The majority of authors agree with this, however, Burton fails to mention that terrorists do not always specifically target tourists, this can be shown with the: 9/11 bombings, the London Bombings, the IRA attacks in Ireland and the ETA in Spain. Tourists are therefore not simply targeted for the amount of casualties that can be inflicted, but because they are representative of various nationalities which therefore creates increased international media coverage and uproar around the world (Sonmez, 1998).

Burton refers to the 'severity and frequency' at the beginning of his discussion, but does not reveal any further information. It would be interesting to discover what he found out about this, and how much it relates to tourists.

Burton mentions that the media are knowingly assisting tourism, and it would be fascinating to find out whether the media do actually realise that they are feeding terrorists with the publicity that they crave. The 21stcentury is said to be characterised by media spectacle, audiences want to experience something extraordinary and phenomenal in order to attract and retain their attention (Thompson, 2008; Gorman and McLean, 2009). Consequently, to compete, the media has to portray the most shocking and disturbing stories to increase viewer ratings.

The paper mentions that the state control most of the world media, however, in most cases the media, especially in western societies, has full control over decision making and this is why they are targeted (Wilkinson, 1997). The media themselves censor what coverage is leaked, and this can occur in hostage situations where the media are usually the first to learn about it, but wait before globalising the information in order to protect civilians.

Further on, Burton talks about tourism and the impact that terrorism can have on tourism rates to neighbouring countries. This is interesting because tourists are not actually deterred from travelling, but simply choose to go to a different destination, a good example of this would be the attacks in Egypt in 2005 when tour operators immediately diverted seat capacity to Turkey, increasing Turkey's tourism rates (Koc, 2011).

It appears that the media is used by both terrorists and the government in an attempt to benefit either party. Many would agree with Burton in that the media, when associated with terrorism, is not beneficial to tourism destinations in the slightest. This is why countries where the media is controlled by the government, censor information to prevent tourism decline-such as in Spain.

Gorman, L. and McLean, D. (2009). Media and Society Into the 21st Century: A Historical Introduction. (2nd Eds). West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
Koc, A. (2011). Opinion: Turkey failures will continue until we learn to diversify, Travel weekly [Online] 5th August. Available at: http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2011/08/05/37865/opinion+turkey+failures+will+continue+until+we+learn+to+diversify.html [Accessed: 22nd October 2011].
Nacos, B.L. (2007). Mass Mediated Terrorism: The Central Role of the Media in Terrorism and Counterterrorism. (2nd Edition). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Sonmez, S.F. (1998). Tourism, Terrorism and Political Instability. Annals of Tourism Research, 25(2), pp. 416-456.
Weimann, G. (2008). The Psychology of Mass-Mediated Terrorism. American Behavioural Scientist, 52(1), pp. 69-86.
Weimann, G., and Winn, C. (1994). The Theatre of Terror: Mass Media and International Terrorists. New York: Longman
Wilkinson, P. (1997). The media and terrorism: A reassessment. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9(2), pp. 51-64.
Commentary by Claudia Nass
Author: Claudia Nass
This paper is discussing the relationship between terrorist attacks and the media coverage very straight forward as the main argument seem to be that the media is dependent on attacks such as September 11th to find a topic to discuss. It cannot be argued that the media is playing an important role within this topic but one also has to say that the example of Spain shows that the media is not highlighting every attack. Since the 1960´s Spain is suffering from several terrorist attacks every year like for example the Madrid Bombing in 2004 in which 191 people have been killed and nearly 2000 injured. Hamilos (2007) even referred to it as 'the worse Islamist terrorist attack in European history'. Nevertheless, Spain is one of the most popular holiday destinations which can be explained with the low media coverage.

The author also writes about the decreasing numbers of incoming tourists to the United States of America after the terrorist attack in New York City. Additionally to this one can mention the 'Centre of Research about the Arab world', which stated that after September 11th the Golf region has recorded increasing numbers of international tourists. This shows that tourists' perception of risks is highly influenced by external factors such the media, as for example Al-Qaida is based in an Islamic country in the Golf region and tourist keep travel there.

Also interesting within the Conference Paper is the part about reasons why tourists stop travelling to holiday destinations which have been suffering from terrorist attacks. Subsidiary to the authors writing one can quote Mansfield (1996) who wrote that an important factor for choosing a destination to spend ones holidays are safety and peace and that tourists also do not want to be confronted with "politically motivated impediments" in a country.

To finalise one has to say that although different countries such as the United States of America or Tunisia and Egypt have to deal with decreasing numbers of incoming tourist due to the high presence of media coverage, statistics show that these are no long-term consequences and tourist tend to forget about their fear of visiting these destinations which leads to a recovery of the tourism industry within these countries.