Uniting to confront terrorism

Too often and in too many places, we have witnessed the effects of the “Theater of Terror,” constantly looking for stages to perform its act: blood, panic, ambulances wailing, media cameras, fear, anxiety, casualties, etc.

Terrorism is a global issue, reaching almost every metropolis worldwide. Terrorist incidents target major cities and holiday resort locations. Without this theater stage, terrorism cannot achieve its goal, so it must evolve – change continents, countries, targets, methodology and how it uses new technology to its advantage – seeking the floodlights of major stages for which the audience is bigger and the messages and damages reverberate in a wider scale.

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The repeated occurrence of terrorism in the most beloved cities is not random; sowing fear has a major impact when it hits not only citizens and governments – but also millions of tourists planning their future vacations.

After 9/11 in New York City and a string of other terrorist attacks in America, Europe now must tackle the “octopus” of fundamentalist terrorism that threatens and strikes cities in France, Britain, Belgium and other countries. Terrorism targets cities with tourists, hotels and major sites, aiming to harm security, agendas, the economy – and to dominate the media, in order to spread fear, discouragement and deter foreign investors.

Security incidents extensively impact tourism. The decline in tourism, felt months after the attack, causes significant financial damage to cities that had not been directly affected by terrorism in the past. According to data collected about tourist traffic to popular capital cities in Europe during 2016, the year in which global terrorism registered its greatest increase in the last decade, the number of tourists significantly dropped. Brussels, for example, was hit by an 18% drop in tourism to after three suicide bombings in the city in March 2016, and Paris registered a 14% drop in tourism to after the November 2015 terrorist attacks, with related revenue losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Terrorism harms the image and reputation of cities in ways that reduce their global value.

Jerusalem, which will host the first International Conference for Global Tourism in October, is challenged by terrorism; unfortunately, Israel has rich experience with attacks and counter terrorism measures.
In its 70 years, Israel, a tourist mecca, has suffered seven wars and thousands of terrorist attacks that have exacted a heavy toll in malls, suburbs, markets, airports, restaurants, buses and other locations.

Israel modeled a “no surrender to terrorism” approach to the world in the 1970s, rescuing the Sabena flight hostages in 1972 and Air France hostages from Entebbe in 1976. For the purpose, Israel developed counter-terrorism intelligence, methods and technology, while reducing the “friction zone” of security from the day-to-day lives of the citizens and tourists. The success is reflected in a 47% increase in tourism to Jerusalem, despite ongoing terrorist efforts in the area. 

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The decision to hold a conference in Israel on this important subject was made under the threat of terrorism. Israel and other countries with prominent tourist industries seek global solutions that foster the willingness and readiness of all to share information, experience, technologies and lessons. Beyond international cooperation regarding intelligence, operations and drying up funding for terrorism, nations must learn how to handle terrorist crises and other mass disasters; how to guide tourists and the media. Which strategies and messages are most effective? Our extensive experience has a lot to offer.

Each city and country should develop “emergency kits” for coping with tourism-related terrorism: policies for rapid response, contingency plans, rules of engagement, search warrants, transitioning back to business as usual, etc.

By sharing knowledge and collective experience, we can unite against terrorism and its collateral damage to tourism and other aspects of life.

Avi Benayahu is a retired brig.-gen., a strategy, media and crisis management consultant, and former IDF spokesperson and commander of Galei-Tzahal, the IDF radio station.
Ilanit Melchior is a key figure in The Jerusalem Development Authority.

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