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Handling Stress for Travel and Tourism Professionals

, Handling Stress for Travel and Tourism Professionals, eTurboNews | eTN

One of the ways that the travel and tourism industry promotes its leisure market is that vacations are a time to de-stress.

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Unfortunately, all too often, travel, both for business and leisure, seems to promote stress rather than de-stressing us. 

Anyone who has ever traveled understands why travel in English is derived from the French word travail, meaning hard work.  Travel, especially in high season, is work.  In today’s complicated world, we deal with overbookings and airline cancellations, power outages, and weather conditions.

Security and pandemic concerns have added extra stress to the travel experience in the twenty-first century.  Many of our best customers suffer from what can be called travel stress, and anyone who has been on vacation also knows that we deal with the “stressful search for pleasure.”  Travel professionals are often able to handle their clients’ stressful situations.  On the other hand, few people consider that tourism professionals and especially front-line personnel often suffer and how easily this stress can turn into forms of aggressive (and destructive) employee behavior. 

For this reason, this month’s edition of Tourism Tidbits presents several ideas on how tourism professionals can lower their stress levels, improve service, and how we can recognize aggressive or destructive behavior.

-Remember, a job is only a job!  Often travel professionals become so committed to their job that they forget that, in the end, it is only a job. That does not mean we should not provide the best customer service possible, but at the same time, never forget that travel professionals are only human and cannot solve all problems. 

Do your best, maintain a smile, and do not be afraid to apologize, but also remember that if you are over-stressed, you do no one any good.

-Know the warning signs of your own and co-workers’ aggressive behavior.  Tourism Tidbits is not a psychological journal; however, be observant of yourself or others who may exhibit odd behavior such as the pathological shifting of blame, elevated frustration levels, any form of chemical dependency, strange or unhealthy romantic obsessions, depression or unrelenting self-righteousness.  

Such behavior may be a good reason to seek professional help or encourage a co-worker to get professional help.  These may well be signs that you or the co-worker may be suffering from workplace stress that can lead to aggressive behavior.

-Learn to communicate with colleagues and ask questions.  Often people believe they are helping by not asking too many questions and thus protecting another’s privacy.  

Although everyone has the right not to talk, speaking with co-workers in a positive tone can be beneficial.  Provide constructive feedback, find ways to ask if there is anything you can do, and use sentences that do not seek “yes-no” answers but permit the person to express him/herself in the manner he/she feels most comfortable.

-Encourage everyone in the travel and tourism industry to have outside resources.  No person who works in a travel and tourism or tourism office should be without a way to communicate with psychologists, law enforcement, risk management teams, and medical personnel.  

Crises can occur at any time. Have a list of people who can help before a crisis so that during a crisis, you can act rather than first trying to find the right person to solve the problem.  Remember, crises often come without warning.  Prepare before a crisis strikes.

-Remember that stress attacks that lead to counter-productive behavior are often unpredictable.  It is almost impossible to predict when stress will occur within a given situation, how it may manifest itself, the magnitude of the reaction to the stress, or the type of emergency it may produce.  

For this reason, the more we know about our co-workers and ourselves, the better the probability that we will be able to handle a crisis when it occurs.

-Be aware when post-trauma stress can occur more than once.  Most people are sensitive to another person’s crisis during the initial stage of that crisis. However, crises have a way of repeating themselves.  We often forget that stress can occur on the anniversary of a tragedy, divorce, or holiday. Often this stress is transformed into aggressive behavior against co-workers or even the public.

-Take some time for yourself.  Although tourism officials are in the relaxation business, few take vacations or find the time to relax.  

We all need time to unwind and regain our bearings; this is especially true in people-oriented jobs where customer service is considered a high priority. Maslow’s famous hierarchy of human needs applies to you too. The need for security, safety, and protection, the desire for structure, and the importance of freedom from fear and chaos impact the lives of everyone, including tourism professionals.

-Do not be afraid to ask for help.  Often we not only cover up personal crises, but due to tourism professionals’ training in putting the other person’s needs first, we fail to admit these crises even to ourselves. People react in different ways, and often a divorce, loss of a close relative or friend, or financial crisis can transform itself into stress and aggressive behavior.

Oddly, people are sometimes most aggressive toward those who care about them most or have been most helpful to them. This aggression then produces a cycle of stress that can destroy a workplace’s esprit de corps.

If a co-worker does become violent, remember, first and foremost, to stay calm and protect your guests and other employees. Never forget that violence can destroy a tourism community. Thus, try to isolate the violent individual as quickly as possible and remember that each situation has unique qualities and challenges. Last but not least, if possible, have a professional be the person to disarm a stressed person participating in aggressive behavior.

About the author


Dr. Peter E. Tarlow

Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management, and tourism and economic development. Since 1990, Tarlow has been aiding the tourism community with issues such as travel safety and security, economic development, creative marketing, and creative thought.

As a well-known author in the field of tourism security, Tarlow is a contributing author to multiple books on tourism security, and publishes numerous academic and applied research articles regarding issues of security including articles published in The Futurist, the Journal of Travel Research and Security Management. Tarlow’s wide range of professional and scholarly articles includes articles on subjects such as: “dark tourism”, theories of terrorism, and economic development through tourism, religion and terrorism and cruise tourism. Tarlow also writes and publishes the popular on-line tourism newsletter Tourism Tidbits read by thousands of tourism and travel professionals around the world in its English, Spanish, and Portuguese language editions.

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