Not ‘interesting’, not now, not ever

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

We run a regular feature on our main website called ‘Image of the Day’. It celebrates memorable scenes, moments, launches and campaigns from the global aviation and travel retail sphere.

I may have to add a new column, called ‘Inappropriate remark of the day’. I read some crass stuff from time to time in this industry but seldom does someone’s comment sicken me to the stomach.

Though I hesitate to quote it, I will. This is from a fellow B2B media title’s analysis of the impact of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday terrorist atrocities (see my Blog ‘Sri Lanka: A place of beauty defiled’) on the country’s vital tourism industry. It comes from Forward Keys, a reputable agency which describes itself as ‘the reference for global traveller intelligence’. From what I’ve seen of their work, they’re pretty good at what they do.

So it is disappointing to read this…

Forward Keys reports on how the Easter Sunday massacres of the innocent (my words, not theirs, for that is what the events and the victims were) might affect forward bookings to Sri Lanka. Apparently, if anyone is interested, more than 80% of bookings to Sri Lanka were cancelled following the terror attacks. In the days following the bombings, the report ‘revealed’, more people in key Sri Lankan tourist-generating markets cancelled flights to the country than had booked them on the same day the previous year. Furthermore, figures from ForwardKeys revealed 86.2% of flights to the country were cancelled, “while new bookings fell away”.

Really? Is this what passes as analysis these days? Did anyone expect a surge in bookings? Do they charge for this stuff?

Unbelievably, and I seriously mean unbelievably, the Forward Keys release (also received by one of The Moodie Davitt Report team) was headed ‘Sri Lanka suffers cancellation tsunami’. What, oh what, were they thinking? The Forward Keys headline writer clearly was aware of Sri Lanka’s recent history or he would not have chosen the term tsunami (which killed over 35,000 people in the country). And yet he chose to use it in reference to another tragedy, which has seen the death of almost 300 people and left hundreds injured.

Now I know that tourism analysts – and media – do need to assess the commercial impact of such terrible events. The Moodie Davitt Report has done and will continue to do so. War, terrorism, natural disasters, man-made disasters and health crises all have repercussions for our channel which need to be assessed. But there’s a time, a place, and a required sensitivity.

I see none of those in this comment from Forward Keys Director Business Development APAC Jameson Wong: “If we look back at past terrorist atrocities, it is interesting to note how different the impacts can be.”

Sorry, it’s not interesting. Not at all. “Impacts?” I’ll give you impacts. Go and visit the grieving population of the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka and you will see them everywhere, both in physical and emotional form.

What’s next? Will you compare the tourism downtowns in Christchurch and Colombo in the wake of their attacks while their respective peoples suffer? Forward Keys? I suggest you go backwards on those keys before your next ‘terror impact’ report.

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  • Well said – hopefully they will have read yours and realise the need to be more considered in the future! One can but hope.

  • Martin

    As a tourism expert, you know that the tragic reality of events like the Easter Sunday bombings is not only loss of life; it is also likely to be followed by loss of livelihoods, if and when the tourists stop coming. And the loss of livelihoods can affect many more people, for a long time afterwards. As a media expert, you also know that this latter point is too often missed, to the detriment of the destination, because mainstream media attention has moved on before there is any recognition of the additional economic damage.

    Internally, we had this very debate. When is the right moment to comment plus how and why?

    In our judgement, the right moment was when some of the world’s major media, including CNN, the BBC and Reuters were asking. What was drafted and distributed followed such requests.

    With regard to the reality, the country has indeed suffered a tidal wave of cancellations. Net bookings are around 200% down. This means that, in addition to there being no new bookings, as many people cancelled their existing bookings as made bookings during the equivalent period last year.

    We appreciate that use of the word tsunami may be controversial but if that draws attention to the plight of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry and stimulates sympathy for it, which greatly needed right now, that will be more helpful to the country than a diplomatic silence.

    (Founder and CEO, ForwardKeys)