Political unrest has a longer-term impact on hotel performance than terror attacks, according to a new study, as an increasing number of attacks in recent years has led to a greater resilience.
According to "The Diminishing Impact of Terrorism" by David Harper, head of property services for Hotel Partners Africa, terrorists have long seen the value in attacking tourists, as these potential targets are easy to identify, insufficiently protected and—when kidnapped or killed—attract media attention to the criminals.
The report commented on the tradition of leisure travelers seeking security in all-inclusive resorts, but called for greater integration into local communities, to counter the "them and us" mindset that can foster division.
Attacks vs. Unrest
Attacks on tourists were also described as an attack on revenue for the government. New data showed that in countries where attacks had happened, visitor exports had suffered. Egypt was reportedly 50 percent below its 2008 peak in travel and tourism GDP, a decline that could be credited to terror attacks and the perceived political instability.
The report quoted recent research from the WTTC, which found that it took an average of 13 months for a destination to recover from a terrorist attack, while it took 21 months to recover from diseases, 24 months from an environmental disaster—and 27 months from political unrest.
Similarly, the report found that the difference between what was seen as “a terrorist attack” rather than “an internal political” issue affected visitor sympathy. Terror attacks, it said, can sometimes increase demand for low-to-moderate political risk countries, as destinations offer price cuts to lure visitors back. STR data suggested that hotel performances in affected destinations typically started to return to normal three months after an attack, as long as there were no further attacks.
Different Travelers, Different Results
How long international visitors stayed away often depended on visitors’ perception and how “in control” the local authorities were, how likely another attack was and how much general instability there was.
"There is evidence to show that different types travelers react differently to security scares," Harper said. "Independent travelers, or those seeking experiences tend to have a different approach to security alerts, looking into them more deeply before ruling somewhere out, rather than just dismissing a whole region over a possibly out of date concern.”
The leisure market was most vulnerable. “There has long been a tradition of all-inclusive resorts providing what is seen as ‘safe haven’ in an otherwise dangerous location, but hopefully security measures can be enhanced enough to negate the need for the ‘all-inclusive’ experience to become a requirement of international travel," the report claimed. "The best hope we have is that tourists get the chance to spend their money in the wider locality of a destination, thereby generating demand for locals which could alleviate financial pressures, and meet local people, to help facilitate an understanding of different cultures.
“If there is no interaction between locals and tourists, and the ‘them and us’ mind state will only be enhanced, potentially leading to the sort of disillusionment that tends to start most terror campaigns.”
Looking ahead, Harper predicted that experiential travel could decrease demand for traditional package tours. "However, the growth in revenue generated by experience travel will grow significantly faster than in other segments, and so will become more attractive to investors. Once-in-a-lifetime trips are now taken once every two years.
“The benefits of experience travel is that is helps instruct people on cultures and regions that are different—imagine the good that could do to people like Trump? People say I’m a dreamer (sung someone famous), but is it possible that such travel could help bridge the gulfs between different cultures, ideologies and religions?”
Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.