The role of tour providers and operators and destination safety. Both domestic and international tourists are often exposed to unique safety risks and security issues not common to other sectors or activities 7. Throughout the tour, direct control over the security and well-being of the tourists is effectively transferred to tour providers and operators, as well as other third parties. In a number of circumstances, the law enforces “strict liability” upon the concerned third parties, whereas in other instances, this third parties can only be liable if there is a prove of fault or negligence on their part, and it is upon the traveler to prove this claim before he or she can recover damages for harm or injury 8.
Nevertheless, the security and safety issue invokes more concern than simply identifying the liable parties or the potentially liable third parties. There are myriad of complex bodies of law that deal with various aspects of tourism and travel safety issues, e.g.hotel law, consumer law, aviation law, etc 9.
Tour operators are considered liable not only for non-performance or improper performance of the services involved but also for the physical injury of their clients if this could be in any way linked to negligence in relation to them, or even to their service providers 10. This means that tour operators are liable for all aspects of the contract with the client and can be relieved of such liabilities only if they result from force majeure.
Therefore, it is important that they take certain measures to secure the safety of their clients during the journey and when they are on holiday. In this way, tour operators try to diminish the safety and security risks that their clients could face. They asses destination safety even more critically than an individual would 11. For example, a tourist may not be aware of the quality of sanitation or health care at a destination. In order to avoid risks, tour operators decide whether or not to include in their program destinations with different kinds of risks, to stop operations to certain resorts already included in their programs, to reduce the capacities at a destination, or to take certain measures to protect their clients on the spot 12.
Liability of Tour providers and operators. Numerous state and federal courts have ruled that tour providers and operators acts on behalf of the final consumer who is the tourist, and not just as a mare agent between the tourist and other service providers. According to legislation in these states (including Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and California), tour operators are fiduciaries and high standards of care are expected from them 13. Therefore, their responsibility and obligations to their clients is not dependent on their relationship with tour destinies.
Tour providers and operators can be sued under some of the legal theories (in addition to other third parties providing accommodation or travel service) for failure to Disclose Health and Safety Hazard Information 15. However, a tour provider generally has no duty to investigate ultimate details of tourist destination for compliance with security and safety laws. Nevertheless, the tour provider may be equally liable in situations where the tour operator had the knowledge or should have rationally known of particular safety and security risks but did not alert the tourist 16. Some juries have found tour operators and providers liable for failure to effectively scrutinize levels of crime in tour destinations or regions, or failure to advice on health concerns such as the need for vaccines/shots, or warning of an epidemic.
Influencing factors. The behavior of tour operators toward a destination hit by a crisis depends on many factors, and they make a final decision on their attitude toward it after analyzing all possible aspects of safety and security risks there 18. Nevertheless, their business practices show that they primarily concentrate on the following issues, including type of crisis (human caused crises like war, civil unrest, riots, regional tensions, terrorism, political instability, violence of any kind, crime); natural catastrophes (earth quakes, floods, hurricane, volcanic eruptions, out breaks of epidemic diseases, fire); catastrophes caused by human and technical error (nuclear pollution, oil spills); dimensions of crises (limited to just certain place in a country, a certain region of a country, or the whole country); Predicted length of crisis (long-term disruption, ongoing uncertainty, short term event disruptions)
It has to be born in mind that tourists nowadays have such a wide holiday choice that they usually do not even consider traveling near places where they might be at risk. One destination can easily be substituted by a similar or even a completely different one elsewhere. Tourists prefer to wait until the situation in the respective country becomes normal again 19. This is basically the attitude of tourists. Such a situation leads to negative economic effects from international tourism flows in respective destinations. Since the crises normally outlive the physical damage, the tourism community/industry has to find ways to manage the disasters’ after-effects.
By analyzing the problems that tour operators have had in the last decade with safety and security issues in many receiving countries, certain factors come to light. Travel agencies in the generating markets do not want to sell holidays to risky destinations, even if the client is interested in them. As it was the case in Croatia where many clients who intended to spend their holidays there were discouraged by their travel agencies from purchasing package trips from Croatia tour specialists. This clearly suggests that travel agencies are not willing to risk the problems their clients are likely to face at an unsafe destination, a situation that also applies to other foreign tour operators. To protect the interest of their clients and their own interest, they withdraw from the country at risk and delete it from their program 20.
Once imposed, travel restrictions to a particular country under risk of war cannot be changed easily. Foreign Governments of generating countries do not issue special warnings to tourists to avoid particular destinations or countries and it’s up to tour operators to decide how to react to each case.
The problem arises when clients’ wants to cancel their holidays themselves, even though tour operators do not intend to stop their program there 21. Although they have contractual rights with their clients to ensure payment is made for the journey, the final decision usually depends on the particular situation. Tour operators will try to consider what the interest of their clients is and what is in their own interest for the protection of their own image.
The growth of terrorism, crime and violence in the world has given rise to a new problem; tourists as a target of terrorism and criminal acts. Tourists are targeted for their symbolic values. For terrorists, the symbolism, high profile, and newsworthiness of the international tourist are too valuable to be left unexploited. The responsibility of tour operators towards their clients means that they cannot neglect this very fact. In cases of uncertain disruptions, they will actually stop their operations to the particular country for a period of time until local governments undertake adequate measures to diminish safety risks 22. Alternatively, tour operators will significantly reduce their capacity to the destination. In this way, they keep the destination in their program, but at the same time try to minimize their risk of operation. The cancellation or omission of a particular destination from a tour operators’ program is also a signal to individual tourist that the destination is not safe. Thus tour operators influence the way a particular destination is viewed, because their behavior towards a particular destination affects the attitude of all potential tourists. In this way, they influence the image of a destination a destination and thus have a direct impact on the tourism income of a particular country.