Customers are concerned about travelling after this year’s terror attacks. The travel industry must respond with a stronger focus on customer safety, writes DER Touristik CEO Sören Hartmann in a guest opinion article.
The attacks in Paris have shocked us all. However, there is no quick solution for the Syria, IS and terror problems. The virus of 2015 is called insecurity. There are so many major tasks that our countries face. The refugee flows, the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, Syria and the terror attacks in Tunis, Kenya, Ankara, Sharm el-Sheikh and Paris. 18 attacks this year in destinations that are important for us leave traces in people’s minds.
Insecurity is a bad travel companion. Travel demand will decline generally, and above all this is likely to impact on the Eastern Mediterranean. This is putting significant pressure on the booking figures for this winter and next summer. We don’t just see this for Egypt and Tunisia. In Turkey, DER Touristik started into this winter with high growth but the increase is shrinking daily. The Balearic Islands, Portugal and the Canary Islands are selling well, and long-haul holidays are also in very strong demand. It seems as through customers are trying to escape from the turbulence in Europe for a while through their trips and simply switch off.
What can we as an industry do now? We must take the fears of our customers seriously. When the whole world seems unsafe, then customers will decide at short notice where they judge the situation to be best for themselves. For us as an industry this means two things. Firstly, together with our sales partners we have to react flexibly and dynamically, and adjust prices and products.
Secondly, we must push for security standards to be raised – this applies for airports, roads and excursion destinations just as much as for hotels. Of course, it’s important that our customers can move freely. But it’s even more important that nothing happens to them. In Paris, attacks were carried out at unmonitored places but the terrorists couldn’t get into the stadium. I’m not demanding any complete surveillance. I’m calling for the highest level of caution to be applied at the vital points. The authorities must play their part. Clear and unmistakeable safety advice from the foreign ministry is more important than ever.
This crisis will not pass quickly. That’s why safety and security are issues for us and arguments for customers. Alongside attractive hotels and flights we will be selling safety in destinations more and more, and will be firmly evaluating these standards. We shouldn’t only ask how many attacks there were. But also how many millions of people travel safely because governments and local authorities as well as the travel industry itself contribute to security. The travel industry has to make its influence felt. That’s the only way we can secure the trust of our customers.
This text is from a speech made by Hartmann at the recent conference of the Turkish Riviera hoteliers association Aktob in Antalya.