Increasingly, it is the post-incident damage and economic loss that has a far greater impact upon a local populace and associated country, regardless of the size/scale of the incident, long after the reporters have left the scene.

The Loss of Economic And Tourism Earnings

In the wake of a terror related attack, physical violence and the loss of life, regardless of how many souls were affected or lost their lives, there is an immediate decline in commercial activity. This may be due to the necessity for clean up, investigations or rebuilding but even the most basic of commercial services are affected, especially those that rely upon outsider or foreign consumers.

Individually there may be isolated, short term vendor impact but collectively the local economy is negatively affected and in some instances the county’s economy is adversely affected, especially if tourism and shopping are a major contributor to the economy.

Ever since the Mumbai terror attacks, up to and including a few violent individuals across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and even specific instances in the US, a few violent or deadly individuals have been causing millions, if not billions, in lost revenue for the affected locale and country. Nobody wants to eat dinner at the site of a mass killing just a few week prior.

Nobody wants their family to visit a location where there have been repeated violent and terrorist related attacks, especially if there is now a cheaper, less violent option available.

Egypt and France are recent examples where their economy has lost billions as the result of a few individuals that captured the world’s media attention. There are less and less tourists visiting their countries and selected cities because they are now referred to among the travel and tourism community as “the place where that terrorist attack took place”. That title can live longer than any commercial advertising campaign, with far greater commercial impact, to the point where some locations never recover and entire communities, commercial eco systems, spiral into decline.

This loss is also exclusive of the post-incident expenditure required by local and national governments, especially if they have had to deploy or engage greater police or military resources. These unscheduled costs only compound the overall losses and the appearance of police and soldiers at all the popular tourist destinations has an additional, negative impact upon the local economy. 

The Future Threat

There will still be a persistent threat from violent individuals and terrorist/criminal groups, however, in the light of such successful economic sabotage resulting from recent attacks, there will undoubtably be those planning not for greater body counts but far greater commercial and economic damage to the targeted communities, locations and governments. This is a far greater and concerning threat.

Consider any number of current, popular travel/tourist destinations, that have less frequented or “poorer” nations within hours of a short flight/drive to an alternate destination. A single violent event could cost them millions/billions in lost earnings, in a very short period of time. The change in “social sentiment” could also result in expatriates departing with their families or multinationals relocating their regional headquarters away from this affected location to one of the less targeted, violent or cheaper locations. This is a powerful motivator not only for terrorist groups but that of questionable commercial groups or governments that could benefit from their rich neighbours being seen in a bad light which results in their own country finally getting a greater slice of the commercial and tourism rewards. 

It has been demonstrated already that you don’t need to shoot or stab your way through a crowd to be an “effective” terrorist, merely driving a vehicle over as many people as you can, say on a popular shopping/social night, in an area densely populated with foreigners and tourists, will get more than the desired short term and long term effect.

Consumers, Tourists and Your Average Joe

Common sense is not that common!

The average consumer, traveller and tourist is still heavily influenced by the tabloids and news media, regardless of it’s accuracy or helpfulness in alleviating fear or panic. It doesn’t take much, a few images, a few bloodied by-standers and millions of consumers have formed an opinion that is likely to see them choose somewhere else to holiday or travel to and spend their money.

If it’s important, it will find me….

is the expression used among the social media generation. This means they don’t consume news the way baby boomers or generation X, Y or Z did in the past. It may appear in their Facebook news feed, via Twitter, Snapchat or in their Instagram feed. The point is, if it is important or shared a lot, it will find them and millions more just like them….even if it is not the whole story.

Actually, if it bleeds it leads….

so too the most graphic and violent side of the story tends to get shared. Who goes out of their way these days to get a “balanced” or “qualified” opinion? Very few, just look at the impact Dr Google has had on the medical profession and the rubbish that comes back even if you just type “sore toe”, the most graphic and extraordinary results typically prevail.

Franchise Affiliation And Association

A random, lone crazy can be quickly made a fully fledged member of an international terrorism movement within minutes. Kill a few people, scare an entire community or make the international news and just like celebrities, you have a list of endorsements and affiliate offers. He was ISIS….even though the individual doesn’t even know what that is. The groups are very clever and quick to absorb any and all effective acts as part of their own movement and part of a “master plan”…even if it isn’t. More and more we are seeing immediate association or claims of affiliation, with just about any violent attack, further muddying the waters and influencing public opinion.

Unfortunately, the more balanced, informed and accurate message is not being heard or championed by enough governments or media outlets.

Post Incident Recovery

Once the journalists have packed their bags and moved on, the media isn’t constantly covering the issue and something new and shiny has come along, is typically considered the end of an incident phase for the general public. This is when the real work begins!Formulating a strategy, constantly communicating, engendering confidence and demonstrating attractiveness for travellers, tourists and foreigners is essential in order to reduce the possible losses and economic decline. Not overly complicated but even the most advanced countries and dynamic economies have failed to get this right and follow through. Better, more qualified information needs to get into the hands of consumers for months after the incident/s. This is not happening.

The Role of Security Professionals 

Security professionals have a much broader ability to assist in the accurate and supportive role post incident. Instead of clambering over each other to get their 5 minutes of air time with the supporting banner of “security/terrorism expert”, why aren’t their more security professionals joining the conversation and educating the public with “better advice” than was consumed in the hours immediately after an incident? Why aren’t the tourism and advertising community better harnessing this expertise with their campaigns and messaging…rather than ignoring it and pretending it never happened? Why aren’t collective security groups, associations and professional bodies more outspoken about why people should or could return to a location? Security professionals need to contribute with frequent and targeted information and education that helps the public make informed decisions, even if they are not in agreeable with government advice or local authorities. The next time there is an incident…and there will be, count how many security professionals are contributing to reduction in economic loss and rapid location recovery….I’ll wager you may not see any or the numbers can be counted on one hand.

Tony Ridley

Recommended Reading:

The political economy of terrorism

What makes a terroristEconomics and the roots of terrorism

Terrorism in the context of civil war

Oil pipeline sabotage in Nigeria: dimensions, actors and implications for national security

The economic consequences of terrorism

Information warfare: new battle fields Terrorists, propaganda and the Internet

A theory of categorical terrorism

Terrorism and international trade: an empirical investigation

What terrorists really want: Terrorist motives and counterterrorism strategy

The rise of complex terrorism

Terrorism as economic warfare

Travel Safety Experts
Travel Safety Experts

Travel health, safety, security and risk management experts