Destination Promotion of Violence Prone Areas
Every country has something to offer to a tourist, it may be in the form of natural products like scenic spots or man made wonders. Many of the developing countries are blessed with such a vast amount of cultural heritage, material artifacts and life styles embedded with fairs and festivals that tourism industry can serve as a great source of revenue generation. Despite the nature’s gift in abundance in countries and particularly in South Asian region, the tourist traffic has remained dismally low and the region receives a minute percentile of the global traffic. This paper is an attempt to find out the reasons of this poor response world over and identify the perceived barriers of risk. The paper identifies two kinds of socio-political barriers like regionalized socio political risk and global socio-political risk responsible for poor traffic in the violence prone areas. This article highlights the various issues responsible for the poor traffic flow to the area.
Promotion of the violence prone areas is very difficult and it is not easy to attract the tourists to these places easily.
Key Words: Tourism, Socio-political risk, terrorism, image issues, Promotion, Role of media, Role of governments, Special tourism activities, tourist police, Conflict Tourism.
Tourism is the second largest growing business area after information technology in the global economy. Many of the economies are successful in marketing their country and destinations and generating a substantial amount of foreign exchange from tourism Sector. Even countries with poor level of infrastructure and facilities are able to attract investors to invest money in their country for tourism promotion.
Tourism promotion like other forms of marketing largely depends on the Customer traffic. If there is a growing customer traffic trend then more and more money shall flow to an economy in the form of gross revenue earnings and also as foreign direct investments for tourism destination marketing. The product marketing does not involve much complexity like tourism marketing. Tourism marketing is a very complex phenomenon because the number of uncontrollable factors is more than the number of marketing mix variables. Though the conventional marketing wisdom says that the larger social and political factors affect the marketing offer in product marketing but it is more prominent in the case of tourism marketing.
The political up-spring, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, level of crime perception by the foreign tourist affects the prospects of a destination. The violence prone areas are facing a down turn in the tourism business due to the above reasons. The geo political developments and the kind of social background have largely affected the perception of the foreign tourists negatively for which the inbound traffic is in a down turn.
Socio-Political risk always plays a negative role to reduce the availability of factors and opportunities of tourism promotion. Investment in destination promotion, Infrastructure development to connect the destination, accommodation facilities, food service, transportation services and retail investments will be discouraged, as the risk of capital loss will tend to rise due to the increasing uncertainty in the future net return associated with investment projects. Such increased risks would also raise the cost of capital, as the likelihood of loan defaults would go high and the period of completion of various projects will also rise. Both domestic and international inbound tourism would be discouraged due to such risks. Indeed, capital flight and leakage might be additional outcomes as well.
The Problem and Factors Responsible
Despite its variety and immense tourism potential, Violence prone areas share of the total global tourist arrivals and revenue receipts is meager. One of the most important factors responsible for this poor growth is the phenomenon of socio-political risk events. Since tourism is an extremely fragile industry a crucial consideration in a potential traveler’s decision to visit a foreign destination is that country’s political stability, social coherence and other real or perceived barriers like service quality, poor infrastructure and health issues.
Various other factors responsible for making a destination Violence prone are:
Nationwide strikes/ protests/ boycotts
Cross- national guerrilla warfare
World public opinion
Review of Literature
In the tourism literature, few researchers have examined the issue of violence prone areas and its effects on tourism promotion. Authors have cited sociopolitical risk, lack of investment capital and distance from major tourist- generating markets as barriers to tourism promotions. Negative images, lack of foreign exchange for tourism development, lack of skilled manpower, weak institutional frameworks for tourism planning, political instability caused by communal violence, civil war conflicts are inhibitors to tourism development. However, little is known about how international tourism firms perceive socio-political risks and other general barriers and threats to tourism promotion in violence prone areas.
In analyzing the impact of socio-political risk events on less- developed countries three reasons that may have negative impacts on tourism. For developing nations, instability in a region may negatively affect neighboring nations due to interruption of air, sea or overland routes and also publicity about instability makes the whole region appear volatile. Internal upheaval within a country may be far from tourist areas or close enough to spill over into areas frequented by tourists. Sometimes foreign tourists are deliberately targeted by anti-government forces to embarrass the government, weaken it economically, and draw attention abroad to the political conditions in the country.
One of the most common problems of socio-political instability and tourism is that episodic violence or conflict or conflict far removed from tourist areas receive so much media attention that it appears the entire nation is engulfed in violence.
Thus in tourism marketing, perceptions of insecurity by potential travelers is more significant deterring variable for a destination marketer compared to the level of real socio- political problems in the country.
The purpose of much destination marketing is to alter the existing image held by the target market segment so that it fits more closely with the destination’s desired position. While some fears and concerns of tourists and potential visitors to violence prone areas may be based on the result of inadequate or inaccurate information. Positive images can be developed through astute advertising of the unique and diverse tourism facilities of a given area. It would therefore, seem that most marketing techniques aimed at targeted tourist- generating markets, and more specifically travel intermediaries, must also address the perceived image issues identified.
For example, the idea that many countries in the South Asian region are relatively safe and inexpensive must be emphasized. Thus, the product strategy challenge for South Asian tourism planners as identified should be the redesign of the tourism experience so that it satisfies not only perceived customer desires but also specific development demands at the same time.
The information revealed in this research could have many practical uses for planning and marketing managers of violence prone destinations to western travelers. As previously mentioned, socio-political risk arises from the uncertainty of social and political events which affect business rather than from the events themselves.
In simple terms, social and political risk should be treated as business risk brought about by political sources or social environment.
For violence prone countries to successfully promote international tourism in the 21st century and beyond, activities such as research, planning, promotion and education, and infrastructural facilities such as airports and roads must be embarked upon. Perhaps these tasks can be best accomplished through the utilization of effective and dedicated tourist promotion boards and private participations in tourism promotion by entrepreneurs. This will further facilitate the creation of package tours with attractive schedules conducted on a regional basis, and can encompass the tourist attractions of multiple countries. Through effective coordination, their role could be vital in the improvement of facilities for training local personnel for skilled jobs and high level management positions.
The removal of many of the administrative obstacles to travel like rigorous visa requirements, corruption, inconsistent Government policies etc would make travel more convenient. Further, liberalization of entrance formalities could help curb perceptions of hassle at customs and immigration and corruption at checkpoints.
Promotion of Violence Prone Areas
The promotion of violence prone area is to be done to change the negative image of that destination. Special promotion campaigns should be launched to make tourist friendly environment, so that more and more tourists can be attracted.
Steps which can minimize the violence related activities can be taken by the government of that country. Government can play the most crucial role in promoting the tourist destination by creating tourist friendly environment of that area and try to minimize the violence related activities and those activities which affect the tourist activities like strikes etc.
Restricted areas should be make open for the visitors with some restrictions. The paper work or getting special permissions for special permission zones should be minimized to attract more tourists.
Private investors should be encouraged to invest for the infrastructure development for the tourists to provide better facilities for the tourists. Private investors can play role in the promotion of the destinations and can make it attractive for the tourists by creating good infrastructural facilities and also creating the better image for attracting the tourists. Private parties can do a lot in making the image of a destination favorable for tourists across the world by participating in the various tourism fairs and festivals and representing their countries image safe for tourists.
Role of Media
Role of media is one of the most helpful tools for creating awareness among the masses for attracting the tourists and changing the image of a country from violence prone to tourist friendly. Media is the only who can make any destinations image good or bad. Media can make any destination’s promotion negatively or positively.
The role of responsible media is very important for the promotion of the violence prone areas fit for the tourist visit. Media should do their best for creating the violence prone areas image safe for the tourists. They should refrain from presenting the negative news repeatedly or presenting these kind of news by adding more fear and making them more dramatic. They should also avoid presenting live show of the terror incidents.
For example, the live coverage of the 26 Nov 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai created more panic and fear in the whole world and the way of the news presentation was such it created the image of whole India as violence prone. This news was presented in the media like the attacks were done in the whole India. It all created such impact in the world, the inbound tourist activities declined and it badly affected the whole Indian tourism industry.
This affect could be minimized if the media acted responsibly while covering the news of the Mumbai attacks responsibly.
Media should remain cautious while making any news, they should define the things like the location of the attacks from the major destinations and in foreign countries it the news should be in such a way the distance from the capital city or from the major tourist destinations should be defined so that tourists can understand that the destinations are safe to visit or when the conditions became better after any turmoil then this kind of news also be highlighted by the media to attract the tourists by informing that the environment is good for tourism activities.
Role of Foreign Governments
The role of the foreign governments, foreign embassies and foreign high commissions is also very important for the publicizing the image of a country or destination as positively or negatively.
If the government and other tourist agencies of a tourist destination try to convenience to promote that place fit for the tourist arrivals then it is possible to attract the tourists easily of that country to the respective destination.
But if the government or the other tourist agencies fails to convenience the other countries government to consider that destination safe for their people to visit then it will be difficult to make positive image in the minds of the people of that country due to adverse campaign of their government.
For example, After the Mumbai attacks of last November, number of western governments started issuing adverse travel advisories asking their nationals to cancel all plans of visiting India without even the actual details being fully known. The US Government website states, "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens that there is a high threat of terrorism throughout India, and advises U.S. citizens travelling to or already in India to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
They have put the entire India as a terrorist threatened destination. No sane person would have the courage to travel to India after reading such a discouraging advice.
The British have gone a step ahead and their website states, "There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Future attacks may target places frequented by Western visitors and expatriates. British nationals should exercise particular caution when in the vicinity of key government installations and tourist sites, attending public events (including religious and sporting events), and in public places including hotels, airports, shopping malls, markets and on public transport".
This kind of negative publicity of the country affects the tourism industry badly. In such cases the role of the government of the tourist destination should talk to the respective governments of the tourist generating countries to make the situation clear that there is no need to panic and the conditions are not much worsened.
Other stake holders of tourism industry like Tour operators, travel agents and other tourism organizations should try to make and increase putting pressure on the other countries governments to stop their negative publicity of the tourist destination. And they should launch campaigns in those countries to show the safety and security concern of the government and other stake holders of the tourist destination for the visitors. They should also focus campaign to make the potential visitors aware that the conditions are not bad at the tourist destinations and everything is favorable for the visiting of tourists.
To convenience the foreign embassies, high commissions and governments must be taken into confidence for the promotion of violence prone areas safe for the tourist visit.
Creation of tourist police for the violence prone areas specially to protect the tourists from the activities of terror or protecting them from the local ethnic violence, helping tourists during frequent strikes and on such events. Tourist police can help in making the image of violence prone areas better by facilitating the tourists in any problem.
Special Tourist Promotion Activities
Special activities should be organized to attract the more and more tourists and to aware the people by organizing such events that the conditions are favorable for tourism in that area.
These kind of events can be like fairs and festivals of that area or special theme based celebrations for the promotion of the tourist activities.
For example, organizing of the Great Indian Travel Bazaar to attract the foreign companies related to travel and tourism field to increase tourism business by showing that India is safe for the tourists. Or like the Sikkim is Government is going to celebrate the year 2010 as year of tourism and in which various tourism related festival and other activities will be organized during the whole year to attract the tourists and also to send a message that Sikkim is safe for tourist activities.
Promotion of Violence Prone Places for “Conflict Tourism”
The idea of promoting violence prone areas as a ‘Conflict Tourist Destination’ may seem strange but this is what various tourism experts wish and should plan. Government and tourism related agencies of those places should encourage marketing of the place for "tough" adventure travelers. It was all despite the security problems of those areas. In fact, they considered it an additional challenge for the adventure seekers.
For example, Nepal where trekkers came during the worst of political instability and they were facing extortion as well. You can call it a Conflict Tourism. Such tourism seems to be a thrill of being in a place where no one else can. Such tourism is basically cherishing a thrill of being in a place where no one else can go.
Regionalized risk is perceived to have higher negative effects on profits than globalised risk. The promoters to multiple destination regions perceive a slightly higher globalised risk than those who promote tourism to single regions. In the tourism literature, little published research focuses on international tourism image as a marketing problem. This study sheds some light in this area by demonstrating that the socio-political risk factors in violence prone areas as perceived by other tourism and travel intermediaries firms contribute negatively to the organization’s performance, leading to negative image formation.
The above study shows that violence prone areas can be promoted for tourism in two ways. One is that to promote the destination by making its image positive and favorable for tourists. Second way is to promote that destination specially for those people who want to experience thrill and study the events of violence or those who want to visit those places where major violent activities or terror attacks are happened.
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