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Crises: The impact on the Volatile Tourism

Undoubtedly political instability and war will have a devastating and three dimensional impacts. It would paralyze tourism industry (even in the short term). Nation’s GDP or GNH would start declining unless another robust growth area is available.

If there is a word to describe the last three years, that would be “surreal.” As far as tourism is concerned, Laws and Prideaux (2005) argue that the word crisis in tourism industry typically refers to an event that leads to a shock resulting in the sudden emergence of an unpleasant situation. McKercher & Hui (2004) indicate that, crises are inevitable, “episodic events that disrupt the tourism and hospitality industry on a regular basis.” Furthermore, Coles (2004) adds “when not in crisis, destinations are in an extended programmed of practically pre-event-limbo, almost waiting for the important trigger event to take place’. What is tourism? Tourism is an activity mainly based on enjoyable experiences and is primarily unable to coexist with conflict, war, violence, and terrorism. Tourism industry is volatile and helpless toward crises as pandemics, wars, political conflicts and geopolitical tension. Whilst one can articulate that the 21st century insofar as been statistically the most peaceful one; still over the last decades, tourism has been badly affected by a wide range of problems (such as economic crises, social conflicts, political instability, epidemics, terrorism and wars). To start with Covid19 has given us a picture, at once frightening of a world without tourism.

Undoubtedly political instability and war will have a devastating and three dimensional impacts. It would paralyze tourism industry (even in the short term). Nation's GDP or GNH would start declining unless another robust growth area is available. In 2016 nearly the whole of Middle-east was directly affected by wars and political instability. Egypt, which earned a considerable portion of its revenue from tourism, was badly. Europe was suffering as well because of the impact of terrorism.

Similar was the fact for Afghanistan or Pakistan. While countries such as Thailand, China, and Malaysia tourism was booming even then their tourism was suffering because of wars in the Middle East or terrorism elsewhere. The impact of politics on tourism comes through impacting the travel decisions of the tourists during the phase of planning their holidays and selecting their destinations. War, political uncertainty/instability/conflict would destroy the tourism industry with flight & booking cancellations, negatively affected package tour businesses and last but not least with afraid tourists. In addition to the results indicated, tourism is used by different countries as a vehicle of pressure against other countries for different purposes and to achieve political goals. Moreover, ideology plays a critical role in tourism. Wars are destructive for tourism not only in the countries where wars take place but also to the neighboring countries. Tourism value chain would be shattered and might take a long time to re-establish.

The here and now, will the Ukrainian-Russia ‘military conflict” will affect tourism?

A shock to the world and its economy has the potential to affect tourism to Greece and other EU countries. Spain will experience negative consequences in its key industry which is tourism on top of the Russian focus on real estate and construction investments which counts for 45%. Also as Egypt is actively participating in the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Program, its tourism is expected to be affected as well taking into account that 1.5million Ukrainian tourists have visited in 2019, and 3.7million Russians in 2020 (statista.com). Certainly, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will have a negative impact on the global economy (already severely impacted by Covid19) as well as the global inflationary wave, which will increase the prices of food and other products, as this tension between Russia and Ukraine intensifies. The issue is at what point inflation, particularly in fuel prices, starts to have an effect on the travel economy. Well, if the war continues and fuel prices keep rising, it is certain that those factors could affect consumer confidence and travel. After all travelers confidence is often shaken by ambiguity, and wars are by nature uncertain. In addition, this war will affect the flows of Russian and Ukrainian tourism by decreasing the Russian and Ukrainian tourist allocations which come to Greece in satisfactory numbers. I recall that at the years 1964, 1988, 1991, political instability and terrorism are both responsible for lower level of British and German visitor arrivals in Greece (Vassiliadis, 1996).

Noticeably, the impact will not only be in the immediate parties involved but also in neighboring countries which are indirectly involved. Undoubtedly the Russian leader is expected to seek to exercise great pressure over many of his opponents. He will find each one’s Achilles heel to turn over the game with unknown results. Perhaps at this point it is interesting to think also the post-war dimension, not only the immediate impacts during the development of the conflict, but also to evaluate the consequences on infrastructure and reorganization once it is completed. The processes of reconstruction of the war scenarios consume resources and time. Politics and tourism is also impacted by ideology. Wars are destructive for tourism not only in the countries where wars take place but also to the neighboring countries due to unpredictable situations such as terrorism. Terrorism may take place at anytime and anywhere, and can also be a major negative impact on tourism. Terrorist attacks may appear: to punish countries that supported the attacked country and that clearly aimed to weaken the attacking country, to obtain greater media attention (Alfonso-Rodríguez and Santana-Gallego, 2018), and to destabilize the economies of said countries (Perles-Ribes et al., 2016). It sounds extreme but recent years have proved the opposite; that everything is possible.

When human security is at stake you can't think of recreation or pleasure, period. War and political instability makes the tourists frightened of visiting specific countries. Outbreak of war and its outcomes are also closely associated with tour operators and travel agents effort in curing destination image. Equally important is foreign tourists' confidence on safety and security issues in affected holiday and neighboring destinations. Above and beyond often controversial holiday destinations indicate cheap package holiday price. Furthermore, travel insurance comes with banishment which changes protection on travel and tourism activities in area in crisis. Simply put, no coverage means any tourism.

The invasion of Ukraine has awaken agents and hoteliers across Europe, not only for fear that it could affect bookings, but also for the cost of airfare that will skyrocket (as Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas and will reduce supply as retaliation) and the psychology of the tourists (confidence in troubled destinations takes a long time to get rebuilt if ever again and in neighboring countries that have been indirectly participated with military support). Besides, aircraft may have to fly longer routes due to no-fly zones, possible protests can limit travel if they become violent and ongoing Neighboring cities, regions, or countries can also fall victim and experience a decline in visitation as a result of an incident occurring nearby since travelers confidence will be affected. For sure political conflicts are unmanageable and unpredictable.

Speaking to NEWS 24/7, Mr. Dimitris Haritidis, President and CEO of TEZ TOUR Greece, one of the largest tour operators in our country, which brings tourists from Russia and the Baltic countries, expressed his strong concern after the invasion of Ukraine. “Although it is too early to draw conclusions, everything shows that the situation will worsen for tourism as well, because what we are seeing now shows that we will have no tourists from either Russia or Ukraine,” he said. “Why Ukraine will count its wounds from the war and we do not know where it will stop and what will develop.” Agents across Europe are puzzled by the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine. According to a report in the TTG, there are fears that the “conflict” will prevent travelers from booking if they see the situation intensifying. It is a de facto that Greece and generally Europe will have no Russian tourists in the short term. Furthermore, in the long term it will lose market share by competitors like Turkey not because the Russian citizens will not want to visit Greece but because the prices and bureaucracy will be so complicated that the process will be discouraging. In Greece the last two years due to the pandemic Greece has already lost Russian tourists. However, not all EU countries have the same financial strength. Greece was hit severely by the memorandum, the pandemic, etc. We will suffer the consequences like another crisis. War has no winners (Literally; yes and philosophically; no).

We desperately hope and wish that hotels will not be particularly affected, given that the high demand from Western Europe remains, they will be able to fill the gap; maybe not 100% but for the most part.

What Greece, and other EU countries for sure, will want to avoid is the war in Ukraine preventing or discouraging all other international tourists from reaching its shores.

Of course beyond tourism sector that will face a new wave of vagueness, the duration and intensity of which will largely depend on the length of hostilities in Ukraine, are Greek households. In addition to hyperinflation and rising borrowing charges also high energy costs will cause production and transport costs to escalate. The war in the region has a direct impact on product prices, such as cereals and vegetable oils, which were already overpriced. The Greek food industries and especially those that use cereals and flour as the main raw material are observing the developments with unease and for the time being they are keeping a wait-and- see attitude. The possible increase in prices for wheat, but also for corn and soy, is expected to affect the livestock sector, due to more expensive feed. Greece and other EU countries will keep on to feeling the economic impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for at least the short term, with the plunge in travel affecting its key tourism industry, and energy and food supplies all surely to carry on rising in price.

No one knows how this conflict will end. The consequences of a war are not positive that is for sure. The bad news is that countries can and will be always willing to go to war – for plenty of other reasons. Also we want to believe that most of the effects of this conflict will be channeled to conflict areas (I know… its sounds ironic and desperate). We find compelling evidence that revenues of firms in the tourism sector in Croatia decreased significantly due to NATO bombing in 1999, especially in accommodation services and in companies with 50 or more employees. We want to believe that crises and disasters impacts do not last forever. Usually, tourism activity comes back to normal life BUT after a recovery period. It seems paradoxical and harsh, but unavoidable, to discuss who will be heart more while hundreds of people are lost in a conflict that seems irrational.

From a philosophical point of view (maybe hopeless romantic) I stand for Tourism as not just an income-generating industry, but also a great platform for enhancing positive peace .I will stand on the “peace tourism” that is intensively debated. The main theory behind the idea of peace tourism is that “when people travel frequently all over the world, it helps them get to know new people, cultures, values etc. That experience is capable of increasing mutual understanding among people who have been living in diverse cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, such travel also benefits the host countries economically and politically” (Louis J. D’ Amore, Tourism a Vital Force for Peace, Tourism Management volume 9 issue 2 1988). Properly managed tourism projects could contribute to peace building by diminishing some of the structural causes associated with violence. This proposition could be examined by looking at tourism’s relevance to some of the prominent peace building theories. Think about it, “tourism can improve government-to-government, government-to-private citizens and citizen-to-citizens’ relationships.” ”These types of relationships can be considered track two diplomacy, meaning that they work as a supplement for government or higher-level diplomacy”. When knowledge and information on culture and society increase and expand, perceptions through these levels of connections are noteworthy in this form of diplomacy. Consequently, we dare to say that tourism could lead to a progress of international relations in all levels. The immense goal of peace tourism is “to cross ethnic, race and regional boundaries” which plan at improving global partnerships. (https://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/peace-through-tourism)

– The Rhetoric Part-
– So, will the Russian-Ukrainian conflict end soon? It must! This conflict will end with strong, unpleasant peak but it will not end Putin’s appetite for control -Will it severely impact the world’s economy?
Yes! It will be a persistence challenge for EU policy makers and with severe consequences for Russia population

– Will the consequences on the world’s economy be short term or long term?
Perhaps short-term (but harsh) for EU. Concerning Russian if truth be told the consequences faced will be long-term and absolutely unpleasant. But far more important is a world where people and countries feel safe and secure. I imagine that’s something worth paying for.

– Are there winners or losers in a war?
This great question is a source of confusion but at the moment I will stand for what Neville Chamberlain has said “In war whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”  In the modern world of democracy we view war from a human perspective like life loss and families wiped out. As a matter of fact I humbly believe there are no winners especially in a traditional war for territory where people get forced under any government to send their sons or men to a death. Even if one could argue that sometimes wars are necessary, as tragic and brutal as it seems, there are no winners. But even if there are winners there are not always the same ones as on the battlefield At the end of the day, who cares about economies when people become disposable? Have you ever heard about the “economies of death”? That would be another article!

All these opinions and articles are written by people sitting in their comfort zone. Is life fair? Well life has its own rules; the idea of fairness isn’t actually obtainable.

Well, that’s how this article ends… ignominiously!

General Manager - Apokoros Villas | + Posts

Philia Tounta MBA, Ba, Di, is General Manager at Apokoros Club Hotel Craft Deco & Activities - Apokoros Villas. Also, Customer Service Manager Thamiris Hotel-Studios-Villa, Travel & Hospitality Consultant-Hotelice, Tourism Ambassador HTS and a freelance writer (ehotelier.com, flashnews.gr, hotelexecutive.com, etravelnews.gr, etc) - Rapporteur.

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