During the past week, stories from different parts of the world caught my eye because of their impact on the image of places and their possible appeal as destinations. Firstly, I was more than a little intrigued as to what the recently elected Syrian Prime Minister, Dr. Wael al-Halqi, had on his mind when he presented 24 investment sites for small and medium tourism projects in the war ravaged country. With no end in sight to the country’s civil war, he seems quite premature in gearing up for tourism.
Then India’s new tourism minister announced a loosening of visa rules to boost Indian tourism. During the same week an independent travel report stated that recent cases of violence against women have tarnished the country's image and recommended strong steps to tackle the problem. And then an Indian cabinet minister said rape is "sometimes right". Babulal Gaur, the cabinet minister said, "This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong”. Wow! His comments came as India still reels from the brutal gang rape of two teenage girls. I think that the Indian cabinet has a few details they need to attend to before they will get those visa applications flowing from young women.
Closer to home, the media carries reports of open-carry advocates drawing attention to their adventures. The practice of open carry is where gun owners openly carry firearms while they go about their daily business. This has seen an increase in the U.S. in recent years. While the law may have been on the books in some states, most people chose not to exercise their right. However, more recently some advocates have been conducting rallies at malls, restaurants and retail stores. Chilli’s, Chipotle and Sonic restaurants have formally requested patrons not to open carry on their premises.
What happens if owners of M-16s, AK47’s and other automatic weapons start exercising their rights in tourism precincts, attractions and hotels? I don’t imagine it will go over particularly well with out-of-state and international visitors unaccustomed to seeing gun rights demonstrated in this way.
A basic requirement for tourism success and developing a positive brand image is for visitors to be guaranteed a sense of safety for their well-being. Syria and India have specific challenges they must address. In the USA, sooner or later open carry was going to come to the crossroads of commonsense and commerce. If open carry becomes more pervasive, the customer focus of destination managers is going to be seriously challenged. Who knows if there’s a bad guy in a restaurant, waterfront precinct, mall, restaurant or attraction if several guys are shouldering their favorite automatic weapon?