The refugee crisis is dominating the news and becoming real as many refugees are accommodated in the proximity of many Germans. It is time for the travel industry to face up to the issue actively.
We know the reports from the Greek islands, southern Italy and Budapest. Now, at the end of the holiday period, descriptions from friends and colleagues are adding to the TV reports. There are the Kos holidaymakers who prefer to stay in the hotel with their children instead of visiting the town, which is over-run with Syrian refugees. Or a friend who can no longer watch the overwhelmed or inactive Greek officials and who helps voluntary organisations nearly every day.
Is the holidaymaker who saves up a long time for his or her trip and who wants to get away from everyday work thus a worse tourist? Can you lie on a Mediterranean beach, enjoying all kinds of comforts, when people are risking their lives crossing the sea in wobbly boats at the same time?
Yes, you can. With natural disasters or terrorist attacks, the travel industry has already partly succeeded in making it clear to customers that they damage the region additionally by staying away. It is also right that Germany has not issued a travel warning for Tunisia, unlike some other EU countries, as a lack of jobs and prospects is a breeding-ground for extremists in a country that lives from tourism.
With the refugee drama the industry has not yet found its voice. Tourism professionals in Germany and destinations must plan how they can help and what they can tell customers. And they must make their attitude clear, as the Travel Industry Club did with an advert or Alltours with an aid initiative for Kos, and as is now happening in German incoming tourism. Tourism is a major industry around the world. Such an industry cannot look the other way.