Arnie WeissmannThe 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 shaken.

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 direction.

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 authority.

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 going?

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 next.

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 intruders.

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.


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