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War saps tourism prospects news
T Damu
24 March 2003

Kochi: The long-debated war has finally been launched. The human sufferings and the economic loss on account of the war are immeasurable. And a major casualty of the war is tourism.

One of the largest industries in the world today, tourism saw a sharp decline after the dark 11 September 2001 incidents almost in all parts of the world. That's the phenomenon we find whenever there is a terrorist attack or a war. Before the twin towers collapsed, world tourism was recording an increase of about 3-4 per cent in tourist arrivals, whereas figures now stand at just 1-per cent growth.

Statistics show that after the crumbling of the World Trade Center, the US lost over $1 billion-worth business due to widespread meeting cancellations. Both business travel and holiday tourism in and out of the US got affected to a great extent. Hundreds of thousands of workers belonging to US airline, hotel and other travel industries have already lost their jobs.

Now, if the Iraq war that has erupted despite heavy opposition and protests prolongs, it is estimated that more than 3 million jobs in the tourism industry will suffer, with a $30-billion loss in 2003, according to a study by the World Tourism Council. The worst sufferer will be the US. It is estimated that a loss of 4.50 lakh jobs will decrease the economic value by 3.7 per cent in the US during 2003 on account of the war.

War woes
The war will be a big blow to the $460-billion world tourism industry, which has been struggling after the 11 September attacks. America's Iraq war partner, Britain's estimated loss on account of the war through tourism would be £1 billion, according to the British Hospitality Association.

The loss for the European Union will be 260,000 jobs and the loss of economic value will be $270 million. The slump in the world tourism industry during the past two years is responsible for loss of jobs for 6.6 million people, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

A Merril Lynch tourism research study points out that the US airlines industry's loss will be around $30 billion if the war prolongs. The industry loss in 2002 was nearly $7 billion and the 2003 estimation is $6.4 billion. The world's No 2 Airline, United Airlines, has joined the league of other airlines like the Arlington and Virginia-based US Airways in filing for bankruptcy with a loss of over $4 billion. This bad news of the recent past will pale into insignificance if the guns of the Iraqi war are going to boom for long.

The danger and devastation caused by the war in Afghanistan and the warlike situation found in the Indo-Pak border last year did pull down tourist arrivals to the regions concerned. This resulted in a 14.7-per cent decline in hotel occupancy in India and average room rates also fell by a record low of 6.8 per cent during the period.

A survey by Pannell Kerr Forster Consultants on the Indian hotel industry further shows that food sales went cold by 3 per cent and beverages sales lost their fizz by 12 per cent. External accounts earnings from travel and tourism in India also showed a decline of about 4.8 per cent. Somewhat a similar fate stares at the countries of Indonesia and Kenya due to the chilling terrorist attacks in Bali and Mombasa.

Jobs at stake
India's share in world tourism is just 0.38 per cent. Tourism's most important contribution to India is employment - 17.4 million jobs are there in tourism industry, which is 5.8 per cent of the total employment.

The panic created by the war and the travel warnings issued by governments in the wake of terrorist attacks and wars impact the psyche of the world traveller, who for a long time has been thinking that travelling anywhere in the world involves some risk. Hence, travel guidelines should not be issued on illogical assumptions on the part of the governments concerned without assessing the ground realities; this only spread paranoia among world tourists.

It is interesting to note what a senior Indonesian minister, Laksamana Sukardi, said soon after the Bali bombings. He appealed to the nations around the world to lift their warning against travel to Indonesia in the wake of the Bali bomb attacks stating, "Restricting travel around the world is like offering extra rewards for terrorists."

The world tourism leaders and networks like the WTO, the World Travel and Tourism Council and other international and national specific tourism networks around the world are required to organise persuasion campaigns against acts of terrorism and against nations that resort to as-if-the-only means to contain terrorism, that is war.

The way ahead
Governments that promote tourism as their sole economy booster should join hands and see to that their voice is heard in unison against terrorism and war as well, which in itself is considered to be nothing but counter-terrorism. Affected corporates and allied business and trade associations should take up the issues and persuade the nations in question to give up terrorism and war.

World tourism communities should take all measures to overcome the problems faced by the industry due to terrorism and wars, by forging effective collaboration between countries to make the world a safe and secure place for sustainable tourism.

At the same time, in a promotional effort, the world tourism industry should come forward under the aegis of whichever world-level organisation to provide mutual assistance by all means to member countries, to strengthen the tourism supply chain around the globe and to help the governments concerned in rebuilding their reputation as tourist destinations.

Therefore, it is imperative to avoid any sort of war or terrorism.

(The writer is a senior executive in a tourism-related industry. The views expressed above are personal)

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War saps tourism prospects