he bomb blast in Bali shocks us for so
many reasons. The innocent travelers who were killed had
relationships with a cross-section of our industry -- in addition
to the other roles in life they played, they were someone's
clients, someone's passengers, someone's guests. It's easy to
imagine that you or your company could have played a part in some
aspect of their trips to Bali.
The attack on Bali shakes our sense of knowing what's likely to
be safe and what's a potential terrorist target. Most of us thought
of Bali as a peaceful vacation destination that actually lived up
to its superlatives -- it was regarded as a near-perfect mix of
beauty and culture. Its beaches are extraordinary, its craftwork
unique and inexpensive, and -- no small part of its attraction --
most of its people seemed unspoiled by the planeloads of tourists
that arrived each day.
And now the airport will go quiet. As far as travelers are
concerned, Bali itself vanished in the Oct. 12 blast.
Back in the '60s, '70s and '80s, it seemed that the list of
destinations one wouldn't visit grew longer every year.
Much of the Western Hemisphere was out-of-bounds for portions of
that era. South America suffered through drug warlords, right-wing
dictatorships and left-wing insurgencies. The prospect of driving
the Pan American Highway through El Salvador or Nicaragua was
Apartheid made a visit to South Africa a question of conscience,
and Marxist leaders made visits to Ethiopia difficult at best.
Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Iran and Uganda had all vanished from
travelers' maps during that time. Vietnam and Cambodia disappeared
for a period of more than 20 years.
In the '90s, much of that seemed to change. With the exception
of Colombia, Central and South American nations shed their
unwelcoming reputations. Changes in policy and leadership in
Vietnam and Cambodia opened doors to tourism. Today, apartheid and
Marxism in Africa are studied in history books, but one would be
hard-pressed to find their current application.
It's worrisome that, after a decade of seeing more countries
reappear than disappear, the pendulum may once again be swinging in
the other direction. During the war on terrorism, U.S. travelers
will likely focus on destinations that are "on the map," and those,
increasingly, will be countries that are perceived as friendly
I'm not suggesting that our nation's foreign policy be dictated
by maintaining international relationships for the sole purpose of
tourism, but, likewise, there is no reason to unnecessarily offend
the citizens of potential allies.
U.S. officials seem to be singularly insensitive to the loss of
non-American life in this war. The morning after the blast, the New
York Times reported that U.S. officials described the Bali bombings
as terrorist acts "that appeared to have been aimed at the
Whether or not this is true, the statement must have seemed
extraordinarily callous and myopic to Australians, Europeans and
Balinese, whose casualties far exceeded those of the U.S.
Similarly, after the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania and the attacks of Sept. 11, the initial characterization
of these events as wholly American tragedies is offensive to other
nations who lost citizens.
While expressions of sympathy eventually were forthcoming from
U.S. officials to other nations whose nationals died in these
attacks, the first American statements were not forgotten.
Anti-Americanism in traditionally friendly nations is perhaps
the saddest reason to see a country vanish from travelers' maps.
It's a category apart from the examples listed above, in part
because it's preventable.
Before our government speaks, it should bear in mind that a
global audience is listening.