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Terrorism fears still plague travel industry

Tourists passing the site of last year's Bali bombing Keystone Archive

Experts at a major tourism trade fair in Montreux say the industry is still suffering from the fallout of terrorist attacks and the Sars outbreak.

This content was published on October 31, 2003 - 19:59

At the Travel Trade Workshop (TTW) on Thursday, firms were told to adapt to the needs of customers, many of whom are still afraid to travel abroad.

According to a recent study in Germany, 40 per cent of the people surveyed said the threat of terrorism was still influencing their travel habits.

“The population is no longer looking at each terrorist attack as a single, exceptional event,” said Guido Wiegand, managing director of a leading German tour operator, Studiosus, which carried out the study.

“They see each attack as evidence that it could happen again and again, anywhere in the world at anytime,” added Wiegand, speaking at the gathering of industry professionals in Montreux.

Swiss travellers have reacted the same way, radically altering their holiday plans and staying closer to home.

Address fears

This has hit the tourist industry hard, forcing companies to address the fears of their customers and adapt to new demands.

One of Switzerland’s leading tour operators, Tui Switzerland, has seen sales plummet 25 per cent over the past two years, affected by world events, but also the global economic downturn.

Roland Schmid of Tui told swissinfo his company had developed a three-pronged strategy to get the business back in the black next year.

“We are competing on price, quality and, for the first time, we want to market the fact that we inform our customers about security issues,” he explained.

Legal requirement

Swiss tour operators and travel agents are obliged by Swiss law to inform clients on the security situation in any given country. But Schmid said Tui had taken this a step further and was using it as a way of selling Tui as a company that could be trusted.

According to the German survey, security has become the most important issue for travellers since 2001 – well ahead of value for money.

Norman Bandi of the Swiss travel trade magazine, Travel Inside, told swissinfo that tour operators had taken this message on board and were trying to shift more business this winter to destinations considered safe.

“The large tour operators have limited their offers in the Middle East to one or two destinations, such as Dubai, which is quite safe” he said.

“They are also promoting ‘new’ destinations, like Brazil this winter. It’s the first time there are charter flights from Switzerland to resorts in Brazil,” he added.

“It’s a way of winning back those customers who are worried about travelling to the United States or the Middle East.”

Egypt and Turkey

Egypt and Turkey, however, have bucked the trend and are once again popular with Swiss tourists.

Turkey jumped from 14th to 9th place on the list of Swiss travellers’ most visited countries last year.

“Both countries got their message across that they are safe to travel to again, especially Egypt after the Luxor terrorist attack in 1997 [in which 36 Swiss died],” said Bandi.

“There are a huge number of charter flights from Switzerland to Red Sea resorts this winter, and that’s one reason why the figures for Egypt are improving.”

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Montreux

travel

The TTW, or Travel Trade Workshop, is the largest fair of its kind in Switzerland, attracting more than 6,000 industry professionals over two days.
85% of the Swiss population travelled abroad last year (at least three nights in a row)
86% of all trips were within Europe, 6% to the Americas, 4% to Asia and the Pacific region and 3% to African countries.

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