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The Impact of Terrorism on Tourism: A Case Study of New York and Sharm el Sheik

The Impact of Terrorism on Tourism: A Case Study of New York and Sharm el Sheik
Author: Sophie L. Freeman
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Abstract

Tourism is now the world's leading industry, worth around $3.6 trillion (US), and employing 255 million people world-wide, although it can be a fragile industry due to the differing external factors and crisis' which can affect it.
This discussion paper, which fits into Strand 1 - Tragedies, risks and rewards: travelling in an uncertain world, aims to assess the impacts that a terrorist attack can have on the tourism industry, as well as the destination in crisis.
Are such impacts always necessarily negative? Is terrorism always a threat to the industry, or can it be an opportunity for a destination?
Although terrorism has proven to initially have a negative impact upon the tourism industry and the destination involved, in the modern environment, where it has become accepted that all destinations will at some point be affected by a crisis many countries have turned such a threat into an opportunity with the introduction of terror tourism after the growing phenomena of dark tourism has proved increasingly popular.
Keywords: Terrorism, Tourism, Dark Tourism, Impacts, Terror-tourism, Crisis, Disaster, New York, Ground Zero, Sharm el-Sheik

Introduction

'Terror-tourism' could be described as a sub division of the growing phenomena of thanatourism, also more commonly known as 'dark tourism'. This term, first coined by Foley and Lennon (1996), refers to "visitations to places where tragedies or historically noteworthy death has occurred and that continues to impact our lives" (Marcel, 2003, pg. 48), with a further explanation given by Stone; (2006, pg.146) "the act of travel to sites associated with death, suffering and the seemingly macabre".
An example of an infamous, modern day dark tourism site (which will be a main focus during this paper) is New York's Ground Zero, the site of a notorious 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, led by Islam extremist group 'Al-Qaeda', with the event now commonly referred to as 9/11.
This conference paper aims to assess the impact that a terrorist attack can have on the tourism industry, as well as the destination in crisis, and conclude whether these impacts are necessarily always negative, as a crisis can be both a threat and an opportunity for a destination. This will be done using a case study of two particular destinations; New York (USA) and Sharm el Sheik (Egypt).

Main Body

In order to assess the impacts such a disaster can have on the industry, it is first instrumental to understand the theory behind not only terror-tourism, but tourism on a whole. Firstly, the tourism industry would not be so successful without demand for the services it provides. Tourism demand attempts to explain not only how and why people make the decision to participate in tourism, but also how they behave as tourists, what the tourism experience means to them as well as why they choose the particular types of tourism that they do.
After establishing the fact that there is a demand for such forms of tourism, it is then questionable as to what motivates individuals to participate in this? Homogenizing tourist behaviours and motivations can be difficult, as no two individuals are alike, therefore thanatourists may be attracted to dark sites for many varied reasons, for example; out of curiosity, to pay their respects or because it is a popular thing to do (Dunkley et al, 2011) or for "pure entertainment to cultural education". Hyde and Harman (2011) state that it has been widely acknowledged that tourism motivation is multi-faceted, in the sense that tourists often have multiple motivations for travelling, even within a single journey.
With all this in mind, terrorism and other disasters can have a detrimental effect on the tourism industry as "acts of man or nature can transform the reputation, desirability and marketability of the most popular tourist destinations overnight" (Bierman, 2003, p.3).
"The events of September 11, 2001, serve as a harsh reminder as to the fragility and vulnerability of the tourism industry" (Dean, 2002). When such tragedy occurs, understandably initial demand for the destination declines and the tourism industry on a whole often goes through a period of economic slowdown. Immediately after the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, hotels lost $2 billion in revenue and suffered 190,000 job losses as well as a 10% drop in tourist demand (Wolffe, 2001). Although the immediate after effect of the disaster was detrimental to the tourism industry, some years later, this same disaster has been commercialised and has caused the destination to thrive. "Tourist officials had always struggled to attract people to downtown Manhattan. Now Ground Zero is rivalling the Statue of Liberty for visitor numbers" (Mail Online, n.d). In 2007 alone, Ground Zero received 3.5 million visitors (Kang et al, 2011) compared with the 1.8 million people who used to visit the Trade Centre's observation deck each year (Mail Online, n.d).
In comparison, Egypt has long been a popular dark and heritage tourism destination, due to its rich history, and more importantly its abundance of tombs, temples and mummified human remains. Its popular tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheik, has regularly been a target for terrorist attacks over the past two decades, with the most infamous attack taking place in Naama Bay, Sharm el-Sheik, killing 88 people and injury over 150 in a bomb blast (Symon, 2005).
Although the incident occurred at the height of the tourist season, predictions of a financial disaster for the destination were unfounded, as within a couple of months, occupancy rates were back up to 70%. (Symon, 2005).
In contrast to New York, although Egypt has long been a famed dark tourism destination, the terrorist attacks of Sharm el-Sheik have not been commercialised into a visitor site in the same manner as Ground Zero. Egypt's re-invention after the attack has relied on the beauty the destination has to offer visitors, and the resilience of both the tourist, and the industry (Symon, 2005)

Conclusion

In conclusion, tourists have appeared to have recognised that disasters can strike any destination and will no longer allow such incidents to put them off travelling, at least not for long."We've noticed that the impact of tourism incidents has had a shorter and shorter duration. This is because incidents are becoming more and more global and tourists tend to factor in risk wherever they go\" (Wael Ziada in Symon, 2005, p.1).
Although terrorism has proven to initially have a negative impact upon the tourism industry and the destination involved, in the modern environment, where it has become accepted that all destinations will at some point be affected by a crisis, many countries have turned such a threat into an opportunity with the introduction of terror tourism after the growing phenomena of dark tourism has proved increasingly popular.

References

Dunkley (2005) cited in Dale, C and Robinson, N (2011) Dark Tourism. In Robinson, P. Heitmann, S and Dieke, P.U.C (ed.) Research Themes for Tourism. Oxford :CAB International

Mail Online (n.d) 9/11: What will rise from the ashes of Ground Zero? [online] accessed on 2/05/12, available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-136925/9-11-What-rise-ashes-Ground-Zero.html#ixzz1tkGl7F2i

Symon, F (2005) Tourism: Resilience in the face of terrorism. London: Financial Times Ltd