Would you have sent Joshua Boyle and his wife Caitlan Coleman to Afghanistan? This is not to suggest that any travel councillor did book the Canadian-American couple to the war-torn country where they were abducted and held hostage for five years before being rescued by the Pakistani army last week, but would you have knowingly sent clients into clear and present danger?
You know your client has dubious motives for visiting Bangkok (seeking sex with children), do you send them? Transat has notably campaigned against child sexual exploitation in recent years – going so far as to produce guidelines for travel agents to help identify and prevent the practice. Clearly, you don’t send them (and should probably call the police).
But sometimes the case isn’t entirely clear, especially in a world dominated by social media and a 24-hour news cycle that foments fear. For example, negative publicity over the disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005 devastated the island’s tourism industry as frightened visitors stayed away in droves. But, while tragic, the incident, taken in context, hardly warranted the outcome. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people are murdered annually in most big cities; in Chicago in 2016, more than 750 people were killed, yet Chicago tourism is thriving.
Rightly or wrongly, Egypt’s once-thriving tourism industry has suffered seemingly irreparable damage after years of turmoil, even putting some Canadian tour operators that specialized in the destination all but out of business. Visitations tick up after periods of stability, only to fall off the map again after the latest incident. Do you send people to the pyramids? It’s all about timing it seems.
In 2003, Toronto suffered a visitor backlash during the SARS outbreak. I recall attending a Maison de la France tradeshow at the time in which French suppliers wore masks. By the end of the event they had removed them, realizing how ridiculous their initial fears were. Yet the world was panicked.
A travel colleague observed to me recently that by the nature of our vocations, we often get asked for advice about travel by family, friends, even people we’ve just met. Usually the information sought is benign: have you been to Barbados, sailed on Seabourn, stayed at a Shangri-La? Do you know a good travel agent?
But, at other times, the questions can carry greater weight. Recently, for example, my sister and niece were set to travel to Mexico on holiday, but discovered reports that stated that some resorts were allegedly serving drinks made with tainted or counterfeit alcohol that caused illness or blackouts. A Wisconsin woman’s death was even blamed on the situation and resulted in a warning from the U.S. State Department. Under these circumstances, she worried, should they go?
My instinct was to say, yes, of course! But this was family and the consequences of my advice carried more personal consequence than recommending a Mexican holiday to an acquaintance in a bar.
In the end, to my relief, their holiday was deemed to be fantastic, no problems at all. But it brings me back to my original question: What would you do?
• Toronto and New York have come together in a unique partnership that will see each city’s tourism divisions promote the other destination to its own constituents, as well as jointly abroad. The city-to-city partnership is a first for Toronto and is being supported by special airfares from Air Canada.
This & That
WORDS OF THE WEEK
"Celebrity Cruises has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and I cannot think of a more important time in our history than right now to do all we can to support inclusion… This is one for the history books!"
Would you send your clients to a place like this?