LONDON -- In the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept.
11, there was "very responsible news coverage" of events, according
to Keith Yazmir, vice president, communications at NYC & Co.,
New York's marketing organization.
However, after the first case of anthrax, he said, "we have felt
differently about that coverage."
Yazmir was a panelist in a World Travel Market session here on
how the media influence travelers' perceptions of safety at
He said his office has "worked hard with media to ensure
balance," and in the wake of Sept. 11, he has encountered a new
phenomenon: reporters who ask, "What do you want me to say?"
The press is "clearly interested in helping New York to
communicate messages," he said, adding he believes the world has
gotten a message that "New York is a heroic and resilient
The media discussion was sponsored by the Jordan Tourist Board.
Taleb Rifai, Jordan's minister of tourism, said the role of media
is to provide the free flow of information, "a right that we should
He said, "We share with everyone the [Sept. 11] tragedy, like
every decent human being," and, as a tourist destination, Jordan is
suffering losses like destinations elsewhere.
However, Jordan is "doubly victimized," he said, because of
generalizations applied to all countries in the Middle East and the
resulting public perceptions about the region.
"Tourism can't be a real industry without real education and
understanding" of destinations and their differences, he said.
Speakers from other regions echoed his remarks. Beatrice Buyu,
managing director of the Kenya Tourist Board, said of Africa,
"Always the bad news is reported, and knowledge of African
geography is bad ... We ask the media to say the truth -- and be
fair to Africa."
Ken Scott, director of communications for the Pacific Asia
Travel Association, said the media have contributed to public
sophistication about the world, but the Pacific region nevertheless
remains a victim of generalizations, too.
Keith Betton, head of corporate affairs at the Association of
British Travel Agents, said the media are doing the industry a
disservice when stories are unbalanced or they push "just to keep a
story going" well after the news has been reported.
John Bell, a freelance journalist associated with CNN, said, "No
one is hurt by telling the truth. [When choosing destinations]
travelers can make decisions on their own."
But he agreed that the press needs to learn more about the
travel industry while the industry needs to learn more about the
Steve Keenan, travel editor at The Times of London, added, "Our
role is to say what is true on the ground, and it is up to people
to make their judgments.
He said that, due to limited time, space and resources, the
media cannot cover everything all the time, and his paper has sent
reporters to points in the Middle East, for example, to look at
tourism there in the wake of Sept. 11.
He said he did not see the need to send a reporter to New York
until things there have "settled down" a bit. To this Yazmir said,
"You [the media] are part of the process of helping New York settle