What about tourism trolls and their attacks on those who question destination COVID safety? Wow, the world of tourism business in COVID-19 times is a cautionary tale for future emergencies. Case in point, expressing concern in the group Open Tourism on Facebook. Be careful, you might make a travel agent or even TUI mad and out for blood.
This morning a troll pounced on this writer and others with all his laughing emoticons blazing against anybody sharing a read about Serbia beating Greece in inoculating her people against the coronavirus. I won’t name and names, but somebody is hell-bent on selling tours and vacations in COVID ravaged Greece, no matter what.
A certain Geschäftsführer of an Austrian/Serb travel company lashed out today, calling several of the Facebook tourism group liars and “fake news” disseminators over this story on Crisis Monitor about official Serbia and Greece vaccination numbers. So, after a tirade of laughing emoticons and inuendoes, I decided to get the official numbers, just to make sure my Internet troll recognition sensors were tuned correctly.
For background, a tourism forum group member commented that 14% of the Serb population versus 5.5 % in Greeks had currently been fully vaccinated. Others were taking note of how Greece and other countries are dropping the vaccine ball in the run-up to the coming summer tourism season. And on this comment, the snappy trolling tour operator’s response was to not only question the person’s figures but to denigrate the man as a dirty liar. The one group member being attacked cited this official source, which seemed to have no effect on the Greek who sells tours via an international tour agency (also nameless).
Then I find the guy’s personal posts in which he customarily denigrates Hungarian border officers as being stupid for following their country’s rules on people snapping their photos (does this make me the anti-troll or troll hunter?). So, it seems clear that telling strangers who are fellow tourism group members they are liars and stupid is par for this Greeks morality course. Next, he asks me to use facts and tells me to learn Greek and to stop wasting his time. The funny thing is even the Greek Health Ministry press release on coming vaccinations discusses coming “doses” in April and May, and no individual people.
As far as we can tell, as of March 7th, only 356,000 out of a population of almost 11 million people had received both vaccine shots, which is about 3.2%. But, in fairness, the New York Times tracker as of this writing puts Greece’s vaccination number at 5.1% fully vaccinated, with 13% of Serbs having received both shots. The data at the NYTs was supplied by the various governments that release COVID vaccine information.
My point here is, groups like Open Tourism on Facebook reach many thousands of people. In this group’s case, 15.9 thousand, which does not reflect the hundreds of thousands those individuals reach via their network. Somebody posts a concerning trend, and it’s like the geopolitics of business. The naysayers (trolls) whose financial interests are affected one way or another create a “truth vacuum” that is inescapable by the ordinary citizen of the social network. Marketers have always taken advantage of this. After all, what else would salespersons or marketers do on social media?
Here’s the thing, though. In the case of COVID-19 and these vaccines, we are talking about real-life and death situations. Let’s say, for instance, that Greeks in Athens or Heraklion are not fully protected by May 14th, and they watch throngs of Germans or Serbs or Romanians or Brits walking maskless on their streets. Does anyone believe that weary citizens will continue in lockdown or social distancing when not even visitors are required to?
And people like me are called the “stupids” of the tourism world. What, because we can see the long tail of economic disaster that will befall everyone if this “Greece 2021 or Bust” campaign goes wrong, we betray the moneymaking faithful or something? Give me a break. It cannot be that only a few people involved in tourism are that brilliant (or dumb). This is not missile science folks. Tour operators dependent on people traveling will say or do anything to get the money flowing. Few business owners have the luxury of being far-sighted, especially since TUI and the others have made travel cheap as potatoes.
Let’s hope the politicians in Greece and elsewhere can deliver on vaccines in April like they say they can, so that the throng of travelers headed to soak up the sea and sun are met with big Greece smiles and filoxenia, instead of masks and more pandemic mayhem.