All of us with a commitment to the tourism industry are appalled at the cold blooded murder of 50 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. As I write this article the death toll from this terrorist attack now stands at 50 with a further 50 injured several of them critical.
World leaders, led by New Zealands’ Prime Minister Jacinda Arden have utterly condemned the attack against New Zealand Muslims at prayer as an act of terrism and a hate crime which has no place in New Zealand or anywhere else.
The tourism industry has taken the threat of terrorism seriously for some years. Terrorism has threatened the reputation and safety of many destinations over the past 20 years. In recent years terrorist attacks have directly targeted tourists in Turkey, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA, UK, Kenya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia, Israel and many more countries.
Although the Christchurch attack was targeted at the local Muslim community, many of the victims were citizens of countries outside New Zealand. Only through sheer luck, the Bangladesh cricket team which was in Christchurch that day and heading to one of the mosques, avoided being caught up in the attack.
The governments of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Group, representing 21 Pacific rim countries are developing a series of policies for tourism to counter terrorism. Global tourism bodies, including the UN World Tourism Organisation and the World Travel and Tourism Council recognise terrorism as both an actual and perceptual threat to our industry.
The proper response for tourism professsionals is to express in words and deeds our solidarity with the Muslim community of Christchurch, the wider community of Christchurch and with all New Zealanders. As tourism professionals we also need to understand that what happened on Friday 15 March is an utterly abherrant event in New Zealand.
Sadly, there are parts of the world in which terrorist attacks have occurred on multiple occasion. New Zealand is not one of these places. However, the Christchurch attack sends a message to all of us. Terrorism, can occur anywhere in the world, even in a country as committed to peace and social harmony as New Zealand.
In every society, there is a fringe of extremists and extremist groups with hate in their hearts who express that hatred towards their real and imagined enemies through acts of violence. In turn, publicising and promoting these acts of violence through either social or traditional media brings global attention to their cause. This is the essence of terrorism.
At this time, tourism and tourists should not abandon Christchurch or indeed anywhere else in New Zealand. The New Zealand government, police and tourist atractions are already actively upgrading security in response to this horrific attack. This dreadful incident has forced New Zealand to lose its innocence as a safe and distant haven, insulated from the security threats which exist in the rest of the world.
However, the actions of a small group of fanatics should not take away the overriding fact that New Zealand is a safe, welcoming and hospitable destination. We can best express our solidarity with New Zealanders by continuing to visit and encouranging our clients to do so.