Last updated: 01:32 PM ET, Fri March 20 2015

Attack in Tunis: Tour Operators React

Impacting Travel | David Cogswell | March 20, 2015

Attack in Tunis: Tour Operators React

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The gunning down of 21 tourists at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, sent shockwaves of horror around the world, and many travelers looked to the most authoritative tour operators they know for guidance in regard to how to understand the events and whether or not they should alter their own personal travel policies in the wake of the tragedy.

Tour operators are the guides and advisors for millions of ordinary people in regard to traveling to foreign countries. They are at the center of the industry where all the lines cross. They coordinate everything in the world travel market and present it to the traveling public through travel agents.

They are the experts on the destinations and how to travel there. They are the ones who must determine for many others whether or not a destination is safe for traveling. Travelers and travel agents who have developed relationships with tour operators know they can rely on the operators for firsthand knowledge about what is happening at the destinations they operate in.

What is portrayed in the news media usually maximizes the terror, but offers little in terms of real insight on how to respond rationally. For down-to-earth, practical information on what is happening at the destinations and on the safety of traveling, tour operators are a much more reliable source than sensationalistic news reports.

TravelPulse reached out to major tour operators for whatever insight they may be able to offer travelers in response to an event that is unspeakably horrific, and yet demands some comment, some way of making sense of the tragedy, to balance the horror with some rational way of proceeding creatively and courageously through life.

Here are some of their responses.

The Globus family of brands offers a tour of Tunisia called “Tunisian Adventure” under its Cosmos brand. A departure is scheduled for this Sunday, March 22, and it is going forward. The company has had no cancellations for the trip.

“Our first step in a situation like this is to get a thorough assessment of the situation from our operations in the area to determine if there’s an ongoing need for alterations or adjustments to our operations,” said Steve Born, vice president of marketing for the company. “In this case, they’ve determined there’s not a need for alterations. Note that we do not include a visit to the location of the incident.

“We’re in ongoing contact with our operations team, and we have assurance that the trip will operate as planned. Of course, our top priority is the safety and security of our customers, so we’ll remain diligent in monitoring the situation.”

While there are few American tour operators offering trips to Tunisia, incidents as frightening as the Tunis attacks often spread terror far beyond the destination and cause people to stay away from places that have very little to do with the location of the incident.

Egypt saw an effect on its tourism from attacks on Egyptian nationals who were in Libya at the time. The effect of terror is not contained within a single destination. The mantra of the travel industry has always been that if terrorists are able to frighten people into staying home, it could encourage the terrorists to continue a policy they may see as working.

Fortunately, after so many terrorist attacks, travelers no longer seem as deterred by them as in earlier times.

Rich Snodsmith, sales and guest service manager for Backroads, told Travel Pulse that the company has seen no repercussions from the Tunis tragedy, and has had no cancellations on its upcoming tours of Morocco

Ya’lla Tours sells Morocco and Egypt, which are in North Africa and therefore may be associated with Tunisia in the minds of some potential travelers.  

“Since we only deal with travel agents we put things in perspective,” said Ronen Paldi, president of Ya’lla. “If there is a tornado in Kansas, one should not fear visiting California. We always tell travelers to look at things with the right perspective. And they trust us, as the specialists to the region, to always take care of people’s safety, and so far we always prevailed.”

Paldi advises travel agents who are advising travelers to “put things in perspective. Learn about the destination – so you know what you are talking about more than what is in the media. And use an expert tour company, not one that sells all over the world, but ones that truly know the in and out of the destination. That is crucial for the safety of the traveler.”

Isramworld, which began as an operator of tours to Israel and gradually expanded its operations to many international destinations both near and far from the Middle East, is long used to dealing with terrorism and its effects on tourism.

“The attacks in Tunis, like those in Paris, remind all of us just how quickly a simple day can turn into a tragic situation,” said Richard Krieger, president of The Isramworld Portfolio of Brands. “For The Isramworld Portfolio of Brands, we have been working in destinations where, unfortunately, attacks such as these are not new. Always a shock, always sad, but not a surprise. Our many years of experience have taught us that even in the most peaceful times, be prepared. 

“Our team has a hands-on approach to monitoring situations in all of the destinations we serve and we have in place crises plans where, regardless of the destination, we immediately reach out to our overseas partners to implement steps to aide travelers on the ground, make sure they are safe and if need be, get them out of harm’s way.

“While Tunis is not a city we currently offer to our clients, our thoughts and prayers go to the innocent victims and their loved ones.”

An incident like that in Tunis is relevant to more than the question of travel to Tunis. It spreads terror throughout, as do all such incidents no matter where they are. It is an event of such magnitude that each person must decide his own response to it. Some will decide it is not safe to travel anywhere, and since violence can manifest anywhere, that could be one logical response. Fortunately the travel industry seems to have matured to the degree that most travelers no longer respond that way.

“Regretfully, events like this occur all over the world and there is little we can do about it,” said Brian Stack, CEO of CIE Tours. “Sitting at home is not the answer, as we know that tragedies can happen anywhere. Travel is part of our lives, it enriches our experience, it allows us meet new people, adds to our knowledge, gives us conversation topics, makes us more interesting. If we allow isolated incidences to deter us from traveling, then the terrorists have won and we have lost.”

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