Paris Attacks: Short and Long-Term Business Travel Effects

Following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, many meetings went on in the city with increased safety measures. With the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt last month, as well, many in the tourism industry are left wondering about the long-term effects on business travel.

A week ago Paris was dealing with the aftermath from the worst violence France has faced since World War II. A series of terrorist-coordinated bombings and shootings in the country’s capital left 129 people dead and more than 350 injured. The city, as well as the entire world, were on edge as French authorities hunted for those who carried out the attacks.

We have decided to do everything in our power to ensure that our event is held as planned and to show that life goes on at the French Dental Association.

And although the city and country came to a standstill for a time—with borders and tourism attractions being closed—since Paris is an international hub for travel, commerce, and meetings, it required a balance of quick thinking and a safety-first mentality on the part of many to make sure residents, tourists, and business travelers were safe.

On the association meetings front, a number of groups had to make decisions regarding upcoming conferences. The European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association decided to postpone its November 17 one-day chapter meeting that was to be held in the city. “We have looked carefully at the situation in Paris and decided to postpone the meeting and thus relieve members of the decision as to whether or not they should travel to attend the meeting,” the group said on its website. “Many people may well prefer not to travel into central Paris right now.”

Meanwhile, the Association Dentaire Francaise (French Dental Association) decided to go on with its Annual Dental Meeting, which begins in Paris next week. In a communication to members, ADF said “we have decided to do everything in our power to ensure that our event is held as planned and to show that life goes on at the French Dental Association.” It also informed attendees that there would be increased security measures [PDF], including a restricted amount of entrances, bag checks, and metal detectors.

The European Wind Energy Association also decided to go on with its meeting in Paris only days after the attack. In an email to attendees, CEO Giles Dickson said, “EWEA and its partners feel strongly that it is essential that we stand firm in the face of adversity. We fully accept that not everyone will share that view, but we are happy to see that our decision has been very strongly supported by an overwhelming majority of participants.”

EWEA worked closely with its venues and local authorities to make sure the proper security and logistical measures were in place. Attendees were told to keep identification on them at all times and that bag checks and other screenings would take place.

The meeting, which kicked off on November 17, saw its attendance numbers double between Monday and Tuesday, and it is has reported that its expo hall is “buzzing.”

Hospitality Industry Response

While groups seem to be moving forward in the short term, last week’s Paris attacks, as well as the terrorist bombing of a Russian aircraft over Egypt last month, have left many in the hospitality and tourism industry concerned about potential long-term fallout from travelers’ growing concerns about their safety and security.

On Monday, the Business Travel Coalition, a for-profit advocacy group, released a study revealing that up to 20 percent of companies would curtail travel to European as a result of the terror incidents. However, nearly 70 percent of respondents emphasized that they would continue to allow employees discretion in planning trips to France,  and 55 percent said they would allow trips to Europe.

Also on Monday, Peter Tarlow, president of Tourism and More, wrote an article on Hospitality Net addressing terrorism’s effect on tourism, in which he said that both attacks will force the travel industry to deal with a major travel paradigm shift.

“The Paris terrorist attacks, and the possibility of new attacks, have given the travel and tourism a new major wake-up call and will force the industry once again to place tourism security at the top of its priority list,” he wrote.

To do so, he provided a list of suggestions and ideas for venues and locations, including:

  • developing coordinated efforts between security professionals and tourism professionals
  • developing a tourism task force that includes local officials, tourism officials, and transportation officials
  • sending representatives to tourism security conferences
  • making sure that all police personnel and security personnel are aware of the value of tourism security to their community’s reputation and economic health.

How do you think the business travel industry will be affected by these recent events? Or, as a business traveler, will these recent attacks make you think twice about traveling? Please share in the comments.

People mourn in front of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on Tuesday. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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