February 19, 2003
Travel Industry Must Remain Voice of Reason for Travelers
It’s a personal decision. You should use your own sense of security and comfort level when deciding to travel. Terrorism and random violence can happen anywhere; sad, but true. You are not going to be safer by staying at home. In response to the Feb. 7 upgraded terrorist threat, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge made a plea to Americans to avoid canceling travel plans.
NTA staff is closely watching the impending situation with Iraq and threats of terrorist activity. Undoubtedly you are experiencing client apprehension regarding future travel, and these fears are fueled by media stories. Therefore, it is critical for us in the industry to not get caught up in the hype. Although we cannot make an absolute guarantee of safety, we must be a voice of reason for travelers. Following are points you may want to share with your clients or use this information if you do receive media calls:
Recall the 1991 Gulf War experience. Following the Gulf War, travel and tourism did seriously decline due to the perceived threats to Americans, particularly those traveling abroad, but there was no retaliation against those Americans traveling domestically or overseas.
Travel-related security has increased significantly. With the creation of the Transportation Security Administration’s guidelines, see their Web site at TSA.gov, reports of security breaches at U.S. airports have largely dissipated. Bags are being more thoroughly screened, cockpit doors have been reinforced, sky marshals are actively patrolling our skies and airline passengers are paying greater attention to suspicious behavior as never before.
Travel-related hassles have decreased significantly. Immediately following Sept. 11, news reports consistently cited long airport security lines causing many travelers to either drive to alternate short-haul destinations or not travel at all. Unfortunately, the media has not followed these negative stories with the new positive reality: the travel industry has worked to educate travelers how to be better prepared once they arrive at the airport so they can more quickly get through screening checkpoints.
The U.S. Department of State provides common sense advice. Although most highly visited international destinations remain free of specific State Department Travel Warnings, on Feb. 6 they once again issued a Worldwide Caution reminding U.S. citizens to remain vigilant due to the heightened threat of terrorist activity that may target civilians. Stay abreast of what the State Department is advising travelers for each international destination so you can share this information with your customers. See Travel.state.gov.
NTA will be promoting our affirmative message to the media, and we will be making appropriate points to Congressman, especially during the upcoming Grassroots Symposium, March 3-5.
As we continue to work together during these times, please remember to use the NTA Online forums to share information or ask questions. Also, contact us at NTA headquarters if you need assistance.