As I See It
Terror puts tourism and travel on high alert
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall was in upbeat mood on the back of a fifth successive year of profits growth, though observers could not help wondering if her bullish forecasts were a little misplaced just days after the travel industry felt the shockwaves from last week’s terror attack in Paris.
The company has ordered 36 aircraft in anticipation of the Brits’ growing fondness for overseas holidays. Figures from the company bear out the trends and McCall is expecting 7% annual passenger growth. That would seem well within her grasp. In normal times.
Thus far, the industry has withstood regular security issues, but terrorist attacks are increasingly focused around travel and leisure and there have been three major incidents this year – on a Tunisian beach, on a Russian aircraft and Friday’s massacre in Paris.
There must be a little nervousness in all companies in the sector that a prolonged “war” with those who want to wreak havoc at tourist destinations might mean a few empty seats on those new aircraft.
In fact, the squeeze is already happening. EasyJet is to end its flights between and Glasgow and Morocco after a downturn in passenger numbers which followed the attacks in Tunisia.
The last flight will take off next June. The decision was taken before Friday’s Paris shootings and bombings, but it is for the same reason – the climate of fear.
Ali Gayward, head of the company in Scotland, admitted the company has seen “a bit of a downturn in demand”.
The travel industry faces a tricky commercial and PR dilemma promoting holidays to an increasingly twitchy public who want to go on holiday to relax, not to spend their entire vacation looking over their shoulders.
Shares in travel related companies, including EasyJet, fell after Friday’s incident and with the news agenda filled with warnings of more to come it was no surprise to see panic grip the streets of Paris on Saturday when rumours spread of another attack.
Pictures of the deserted beach at Port El Kantaou in Tunisia and of empty lanes outside the entrance to the Louvre in Paris reflect the growing alarm that could prove catastrophic for the tourism and travel industries.
It is also spreading to major sports and music events. U2 and the Foo Fighters cancelled gigs planned for Paris and the Glasgow Warriors were forced to abandon their match at Racing 92. Three of Friday’s bombers wanted to bring maximum mayhem among those crowding into or out of the France v Germany football match at the Stade de France, but mercifully they failed before their deadly kits detonated.
An alarm tonight in Hannover led to the cancellation of Germany’s friendly against Holland just two hours before kick off. Even before it was called off it was said that the German team had not been particularly keen to play after the terrible events on Friday.
Sport was united in defiance at Wembley where La Marseillaise was sung by both fans before the match between England and France. Never has the term “friendly” match been more apt.