The cartoon show that my children
were watching was suddenly interrupted by breaking news; it was a
BBC feed about the bombings in London. As I tried to read the news
crawl and listen to the presenter, I was suddenly conscious that
the children in the room -- a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old -- were
not watching the TV, but were watching their parents.
What they got from
us was the essence of what we were getting from the scant details
then available: Something serious and upsetting had happened, there
was no hiding that from them. But a few minutes later, their older
sister went off to camp, as usual, and their father left for work,
as usual. Their plans for a play date with friends would go off as
scheduled later that morning.
To offer the simple
suggestion that life goes on as consolation in the face of tragedy
is inadequate, because life never quite goes on as it had before --
a change has occurred, and its only the degree of change that
varies from person to person.
A fellow tenant in
my building, who is from London and who also has a 2-year-old,
stepped onto the elevator with me that morning, and he was visibly
He said a friend of
his rides the bus route where one of the bombings had occurred, and
he had been spending the morning trying to get through to him,
unsuccessfully. For him -- and his child -- the news of the morning
had had a much greater effect.
I mention the
children because, in a crisis, people who dont know whats going on
look to people in authority for clues, or even
We are barely in
the middle of the summer travel season, and there are many, many
Americans with tickets to London in hand. Your clients and guests
are not children, but if youre a tour operator, travel agent or
airline executive, you may be viewed as the person in
What can you say
when someone with travel plans to the U.K. calls and asks, in one
way or another, if its safe, or if they should still plan on
Though life changes
with every new event, we now are armed with some experience that we
didnt have before 9/11, before Bali, before Madrid. On the surface,
a growing catalog of exposure to terrorism doesnt seem reassuring,
but it does offer perspective, not only to clients, but to those of
us who work in the industry.
The prospects for
our businesses may be dealt short-term setbacks, but weve learned
through experience that the most dramatic initial reaction to
terrorism -- fear -- subsides over time. Will travelers holding
tickets to London get on their flights this summer? Some will and
some wont. But those who wont this year likely will
I suspect the
greatest impediment to going to London this month isnt fear for
ones safety, but rather worry that travelers may find themselves on
holiday in the midst of people who are in mourning. Is it
appropriate, they may wonder, to go on vacation in London at this
point in time?
The sympathy and
empathy travelers feel toward Londoners may lead them to conclude
it is not, but its hard for most people who havent given it much
thought to project how everyone will feel next month.
Should you find
yourself in a discussion on this subject with a client, it may be
helpful to remember that past experience has shown that in as
quickly as 30 days, the economic damage done by travelers staying
away overrides -- by far -- any sense that visitors are
Your responses to
travelers with imminent plans to travel to the U.K. will likely be
tailored to the travelers sensitivities, but I think its important
that people who are planning on visiting London in mid-August or
later be encouraged to keep their plans intact. Brits will be in
need of economic support by that point.
And, of course,
more than ever, theyll be wanting to see their friends.