Tourism in Times of Terrorism

In her Bachelor thesis, Saskia Schulz has discussed the effects of international terrorism on the travel behaviour of the Germans.

A series of terrorist attacks on holiday destinations have shaken the public in recent years. The rampant truck attack at a Christmas market in Berlin, three suicide bombers at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, the shooting down of a Russian passenger airplane over the Sinai peninsula in Egypt or the bomb attack on a German hotel in the Tunisian Port al Kanthui are just a few examples.

Such incidents have an impact on the travel behaviour of tourists. What are the consequences for the corresponding regions? Saskia Schulz, a graduate of IUBH Dual Studies in the field of tourism business, examined this question in her bachelor’s thesis under the supervision of Professor Ina zur Oven-Krockhaus.

“The connections are clear,” states her professor. “The immediate media coverage enables the attacks to have a worldwide reach. Tourists get frightened and travel to supposedly safe destinations. This results in an economic weakening of the regions affected by the attacks. Media exposure directly affects existing and, above all, potential bookings.

Almost 1 million fewer summer tourists

If one looks at the pattern of tourist crises, after an attack tourist demand in the target region collapses. In her final thesis, Schultz writes that tourists cancel their holidays but tour operators and travel agents do not get the needed new bookings to compensate for this loss. The sales figures of travel agencies indicate that in 2015 and 2016, sales dropped significantly after attacks. In response, the affected regions reinforce their security measures and hope that with the help of advertising and marketing campaigns, guests will return. According to Schultz, this strategy seems to be working in Egypt: demand is slowly rising again in 2017.

A survey conducted by the market research company GfK shows the striking extent of the effects: according to the survey, in 2016 nearly one million fewer people booked a summer holiday in comparison to the previous year. Travelers have avoided, and continue to avoid, many eastern Mediterranean countries, such as Turkey. “This is, however, primarily due to the internal political situations of the countries, particularly in Turkey,” says Oven-Krockhaus. According to an analysis of the statistics portal Statista, 6.5% of the respondents spent their holidays in Turkey in 2015. In the following year, this figure dropped to 6%.

Dwindling numbers on one side – massive influx on the other

Formerly popular destinations like Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have registered losses. Especially families who spent their holidays in these countries in 2015, changed their destination in 2016 and travelled to the Balearic Islands, Portugal or Bulgaria. The North Sea and Baltic Sea also profited from the uncertain situation: a .3% and .4% increase in tourists respectively in comparison to the previous year.

Schulz discovered that before picking a holiday destination, travellers placed particular importance on the current security situation of the destination. To be on the safe side, in 2016 many booked last-minute trips and waived the early booking discount offered by tour operators.

In 2017, travellers preferred to take their holidays in Greece, Bulgaria and Croatia. According to the GfK study, the Balearic Islands remain the top seller. Even here, however, the effects of terrorism can be felt: the supposedly safer holiday destinations trigger a downright massive influx of tourists. As reported in Spiegel, residents of Majorca vigorously defend themselves. At the end of July they symbolically blocked the Ministry of Tourism and in many places put up placards with messages such as “Palma no se vende” (“Palma is not for sale”), “Tourists go home!” and “Tourists=Terrorists”. It remains to be seen how destinations will meet the challenges of dwindling tourist numbers on the one hand, and huge crowds on the other.

More on this topic