Like the rest of the world I was shocked to the core when the news of the recent attack on a hotel in a popular resort in Tunisia hit the headlines. Holidays are the time we need to relax and forget about the worries of our everyday life. I can not imagine the trauma the victims, survivors and worried family at home must have gone through and can only offer my deepest sympathies to all involved.
We should be able to go away and feel safe; but in an ever changing world is this ever going to be something we can depend on? I travelled to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt this year. Spending most of my time in the resort I felt safe, many friends have been shocked after hearing numerous negative media reports on the country that I felt this way. Sharm has incredibly tight security throughout the resort and these measures may be one country Tunisia will look to now to prevent future incidents.
I had a brief discussion the other day with a friend about tourists and how many will travel to destinations and be completely ignorant to any political unrest or attacks of terrorism outside of the main tourist regions. As a mostly independent traveler I will always do some form of research but would something happening at the other end of the country prevent me from travelling? Probably not. Should package tourists have to consider these problems themselves? My initial instinct was yes, however the reason for booking a package holiday is to feel safe and that you will receive guidance throughout the process. When you book a package you are surely putting your trust in the tour operator to research the safety of all aspects of your holiday and update you of any changes prior to travel. Neither could any tour company possibly have preempted this event, so what is the answer?
Having spent a few seasons working in Tunisia and being familiar with the area I could also sympathise with those working on the front line dealing with the aftermath; the hotel staff and the reps. No amount of training can prepare you to deal with this, staff are responsible for hundreds and often thousands of tourists and they will have been working round the clock to update everyone with any information as soon as possible; but with that many people all needing answers at once it has been an impossible task.
Many of the staff involved will be from other countries and have the same fears for themselves as the tourists have and with families at home worried sick for their safety also. Yet they have to put their feelings to the side and deal with the tourists first. Could you have done the same? What incredible people they must have working there as I have read many a compliment on the service received from Reps and the recent news of hotel staff making a human shield to save the tourists only adds to the bravery that was visible during the tragedy. Hotel staff and Reps in Tunisia, I salute you all!
Many tour companies have cut down on staff numbers overseas as in changing times most holidaymakers no longer require the service of a rep in resort. I cant imagine how the emergency evacuations would have happened without the resort staff and I hope tour operators take note that these staff are essential in resort and will always be a necessity. I am sure there was many an independent traveller who approached a tour operator for advice after the attack.
So where is safe and how do we prevent future incidents?It is impossible for every beach and resort around the world to be completely safe, we travel in large numbers, filling planes and fight for space in holiday resorts and on beaches. Security will have to be increased but even with secure fencing and staff surrounding your hotel and beach there is always going to be a loophole where someone who wants to kill enough; will find a way in. Do we stop travel to Tunisia? I believe many will for for the foreseeable future but is the country really the problem? No, its the small minority who are capable of such terror,and pulling tourism away from Tunisia will certainly not have a positive affect on the country.
The reality is there is now no safe zone for you to travel. The risks are everywhere, it can happen here or in any country. All we can do is hope that those in power will take the relevant steps to improve security around the world and pray that there will be no more suffering. We have to look at the positive stories that have come from this tragedy, true compassion and caring humans are the majority of the world population and evil is still in the minority.
May all those brave souls who lost their life rest in peace.