Comment: Larry Pimentel, Azamara Club Cruises

Comment: Larry Pimentel, Azamara Club Cruises

Those of us in the travel business are familiar with the battle between hope and fear. Every day our clients are reminded of all that can go wrong.

Fear is a false expectation that appears to be real. It happens when we project ourselves into a negative scene and think ‘that could be me’. We’ve seen its pernicious effects in Île-de-France, where tourism is down by an estimated million visitors following terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice. With 500,000 tourism-related jobs, the region is reeling from ¤750 million in lost revenue in the first half of 2016.

We all feel sickened by acts of terror. But protecting the freedoms that we cherish, including the freedom to travel, is who we are and what we do. And the more openly we discuss this with our clients, the better.

The chance of something going terribly wrong for any given traveller is minuscule. And the infrastructure of travel has become more secure with every passing year.

The best way to dispel fear is to get out there and travel, re-establishing harmony by reconnecting with others. We see this desire to connect in the outpouring of goodwill and expressions of solidarity after natural disasters. As Mark Twain wrote in Innocents Abroad: “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

There are good reasons to travel when others stay away. Travellers are currently wary of Turkey, a country of 75 million people. Should random acts of violence turn us away from stunning antiquities, the gorgeous Turquoise Coast and fine cuisine? Luxury hotels are great value, air fares are lower, crowds are thinner and security is enhanced.

When we travel with optimism, we see the surprising ways in which negative incidents can spur creativity and lead us on new pathways with positive outcomes.

We see it after financial disruption. From my office in Miami, I look down on a neighbourhood that was brought to its knees by the mortgage crisis of 2008. Today, it is a magnet for young people who are bringing new energy and nightlife into the downtown area.

We also see it after war. Normandy, one of the bloodiest battlegrounds of the second world war, is today one of the most peaceful and moving places on earth, with deep ties between the locals and those who fought for their freedom. Likewise, travellers experience reverential awe when they visit Hiroshima or Auschwitz. These places testify to the power of the human spirit and the triumph of optimism.

It’s our role as travel leaders to encourage hope, not fear. The world’s challenges are real, and I don’t discount them, but pessimism and travel are not good bedfellows. Travel transforms attitudes, hearts and minds. What a shame if we were to let fear make the world a smaller, less magnificent place.

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