Our president, Richard Vanderlubbe, offers some thoughts on the recent events happening around the world and why you can still travel without fear:
I recently had the privilege to visit the South of France and take a Seine river cruise from Paris to Normandy with Avalon Waterways. Before leaving, I was astounded by the number of people who asked me “aren’t you worried about going to Europe?”
The people who asked me this question were diverse in background. Some expressed there would be no way they would travel to Europe after the tragic events with the Paris terrorism attacks in November and the more recent explosions at the Brussels airport in April.
A few were American, and I asked them to recall what happened after the 9/11 attacks in New York. Every life impacted or lost by terrorism is a tragedy. But 9/11 was massive in scale – the largest single day loss of life for Americans since Pearl Harbour. In the weeks following 9/11, both President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Rudi Guiliani encouraged people to get out, go to dinner, and visit New York as a tourist. A TV campaign was launched called the “New York Miracle.”
In Canada, particularly in Toronto, our tourism was devastated by endless loops on cable news about SARS in Toronto in 2003. Footage showed people walking around in masks and from the looks of the news, one would think Toronto was an unsafe place. But millions of us went about our daily lives normally. It was an irrational response.
Why is it so different when the terrorism occurs “over there”?
Global Research states that you are 5,882 times more likely to die of a medical error than a terrorist attack and you are 353 times more likely to die from an accidental fall than a terrorist attack. The National Counterterrorism Centre shows that you are 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than terrorism. And the extreme: you are four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.
There are risks associated with leaving one’s house – whether you’re going to the local mall, concert, train or bus station – you name it. Many of us take far higher risks getting in our cars every day.
Something about terrorism invokes a primal fear in us – the unfairness outrages us. Each time we recoil in fear to an attack, we actually give the terrorist a win, encouraging more disordered people looking for infamy.
Travellers who abhor terrorism should fight back by making a point to visit the very places recently attacked. I’d qualify that by saying places that share our sense of freedom, democracy and standards of living. These places are typically the places we visit as Canadians in large numbers. It is our best way of showing support to the people in those cities.
Our IT Manager here at tripcentral.ca made an overnight trip to visit a family member in Brussels in the middle of our Seine River cruise. His experience was excellent and he noticed loads of tourists taking photos. While sections of the city may have been more tense than in the past, these are not typically the neighborhoods where tourists visit.
New Orleans is one of my favourite places to visit – for music, food, and atmosphere. But there are real risks of crime in many parts of the city. Reasonable precautions and common sense prevail, nevertheless, my chances of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in the best parts of a US city is far higher than being caught in a terrorist attack in a metropolitan city in Europe.
Luckily, the number of people willing to take their own lives and those of others around them is infinitesimally small and law enforcement and intelligence agencies are even more alerted after a recent attack.
As the President of a Canadian travel agency, it may be admittedly self-serving to articulate this position. The effects are far greater on the affected city’s tourism than my business since we sell the whole world.
During my recent and second visit to the Canadian Memorial at Juno Beach in Normandy, it struck me that these brave young men volunteered for service to liberate a foreign country. Those unfortunate enough to be assigned to the D-Day invasion first waves faced terrible odds and unfathomable anticipation of a known and probable lethal threat.
The visit to the Canadian cemetery at nearby Beny-Sur-Mer drove it home further. Avoiding or cancelling a trip to Paris or Brussels seems counter to the real sacrifices past generations made to liberate France and Belgium twice before. Imagine if the VIA Rail plot in 2013 had not been thwarted. How would we have felt about tourists cancelling trips to Toronto and Niagara Falls when ridership on the Lakeshore GO trains is over 100,000 per week?
We should send a message to terrorists that they will not achieve their goals of making us afraid and damaging the economy through declines in tourism. Instead, we should support our friends around the world with our vacation time and money.
Update July 2016, after Nice Attack
It’s unfortunate that I am writing again after senseless violence took place yet again in an otherwise peaceful democratic place. It is perfectly understandable that the citizens of Nice, and travellers scheduled to immediately arrive, would rather take a pause on tourism for a few days. When something so tragic happens, people need time to grieve, pause, and reflect. Being a tourist arriving in the middle of such a mood is a bit creepy; holidays are supposed to be fun. So, it’s understandable that some imminent arrivals would change plans.
But as I’ve written in the past, I think we have a social responsibility to support the people of Nice and any other civilized tourist destination hit by such senseless random acts. This is not a situation like Turkey, where a failed coup, protests, and political uncertainty exist. It is entirely reasonable for tour operators, cruise lines, airlines and tourists to stay away from a situation that could get worse. There is a giant cost to a country like Turkey or Egypt and others descending into violence and uncertainty.
It’s not the same for Nice. People who have plans should not cancel, to Nice or anywhere in France or peaceful countries in Europe. If you are making plans, consider doing your part in supporting people and businesses victimized by this senseless violence. We cannot allow this maniac using a truck as a weapon to win by scaring people away.
It was only a few months ago that a woman drove a car down the Las Vegas strip. The common thread is mental instability which can strike anywhere in the civilized world. The stated or suspected motivations of disordered individuals are irrelevant. Often they are disordered looking for a cause for self-justification.
Our brains are not evolutionarily wired for instant worldwide communications. We react to a threat with emotion as if the threat is present, and we are unable to put tiny probabilities into perspective. All of us can relate to the suffering of the victims, their families, and the communities where they live.
Tourism can show our social responsibility by supporting those deserving destinations victimized by these acts of random and senseless violence.