Two terror attacks in under four months have left Tunisia’s tourism industry crippled, while Greece’s financial woes continue keep tourists away from the country.
In the aftermath of the latest terror attack in Sousse, Tunisia, on June 26, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president and chief executive officer David Scowsill said: 'It is it with deep regret that the world again has its eyes on Tunisia. This attack strikes at the heart of the country’s tourism industry, only three months after the callous attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March 2015.'
The full extent of the fall in flight bookings and cancellations to Tunisia after the two major terrorist attacks is revealed in the latest data from ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million reservation transactions each day.
The analysis shows that following the museum attack on March 18, weekly international bookings fell by 44.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2014. After the beach attack on June 26, bookings fell by 42.2 per cent, compared with the previous year.
The attacks prompted a fall in bookings across a range of countries. The biggest reductions were seen from Switzerland, which recorded more cancellations than bookings, mainly for summer vacations.
The ForwardKeys analysis shows that bookings to Tunisia will remain deeply depressed throughout the rest of 2015, although there was an influx from Algeria during late July following the end of the Ramadan
The Americas is the only resilient region for summer arrivals in Tunisia. Travellers staying 22-plus nights in Tunisia count for over 60 per cent of total arrivals from the Americas, indicating that these are likely to be people visiting family and friends.
Meanwhile, another crisis is brewing up in Greece as flight bookings from Germany and the US – both big market-share visitors to Greece – are continuing to fall.
Latest figures from ForwardKeys shows overall bookings slumped -44 per cent in the first two weeks of July, and then bounced back slightly to -35 per cent in the third week – when compared with the same period last year.
The first big dip in bookings was recorded on June 28, the day of the banks’ closure announcement.
In an exclusive with TTN, Olivier Jager, co-founder and chief executive officer of ForwardKeys, says, 'I think that the worry is that if the economy breaks down, people planning to go to Greece will be concerned about whether places and shops will be open. Will there be goods to buy, will they have to carry lots of cash with them? And how safe is it?
'It’s also true that with the Euro being so weak, they can consider other destinations.'
Starting with June 29, the Middle East has decreased by 35 per cent in booking volumes to Greece when compared with the same period in 2014, while the previous days there was a boom in bookings. Only Jordan is showing an increase in summer bookings, says Jager.
The majority of leisure travel has already been booked, which is somewhat reassuring for the Greek tourism industry, he says. But what is deeply worrying for the Greeks is that the promising high growth has been driven away by the crisis.
'I think the main message is that they should not panic. Now that we’ve got a settlement in Greece, we may start to see a change in trend. But we are not seeing this yet.
'If the trend reverses, that will be good news. If it doesn’t, travel is very price-sensitive and, therefore, any promotion based on price or all-inclusive packages can have a powerful effect.'
Lessons from Tunisia
Travel and tourism plays a pivotal role in Tunisia’s economy, generating over 15 per cent of the country’s GDP at around $7.4 billion, and supporting nearly 14 per cent of total employment last year.
Henry Wilkinson, head of intelligence and analysis, The Risk Advisory Group, says: 'The recent attack in Tunisia has demonstrated that the better prepared tour operators and hotel providers are to deal with such incidents, the better equipped they are to manage their response. It is very hard to respond to such incidents in an effective way if detailed crisis planning has not been undertaken in advance.'
So what are the key areas that tour operators need to be aware of during such emergencies?
'Each situation is completely different depending on the country the attack takes place in, the location of the hotel, the political situation and many other factors.
'What they all have in common however is the fact that it is very difficult for any company to defend against an armed attack.
'In terms of actual preventative measures, these vary based on individual circumstances, but as a minimum there needs to be the basic infrastructure, and scalable measures in place to mitigate risks when threat levels go up. This can include things such as metal detectors, carefully coordinated crisis management plans and communication with the local authorities. In addition, a proper risk management plan should include a level of employee screening as well as considerations for the building architecture. For example, large glass panels in lobbies and restaurant areas present the risk of additional injury, as do underground car parks, especially in case of bomb attacks.
It is important to recognise that the tourism sector is particularly vulnerable to such attacks, says Wilkinson. 'Research we recently undertook at The Risk Advisory Group showed that the tourism sector is the second most targeted industry by terrorist groups.' In fact, 8 per cent of all attacks on businesses in the past year were against the tourism sector or economy (based on research on 31 major incidents over 12 months).
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