by Alice Terlikowski
News in Sydney’s media of a young Scottish tourist who had been bashed by a group of youths in Sydney this week got me thinking, is violence in Australia towards foreigners worse than anywhere else or is it just because we’re here that we hear about it?
Recent news of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, fatally and critically attacked Irishmen in Coogee, a disabled Canadian bashed with the pole from his own wheelchair and now a Scottish man forced to undergo brain surgery after getting bashed in Sydney has all been at the forefront of Australian media in only the last few months but I delved a little further to see if this news was travelling beyond our shores.
There’s no denying that once something is published online it’s pretty much accessible to the entire world but I conducted an experiment on Google last night seeing what happened when I typed “tourist bashed” into its global search engine, Google.com.
I was shocked to find that out of the 11 stories on the first page of the global Google search, ten were related to tourists being attacked in Australia, the other was in New Zealand. So I searched again with “tourist attacked”. The result, four out of nine. What about “backpacker attacked?” A whopping six out of seven news stories were related to Australian assaults on backpackers.
I assume Tourism Australia’s new campaign involving contributions from Australians will include a cross-section of racial backgrounds but is this enough to demonstrate Australia as a country with a cultural understanding? How can Tourism Australia’s new campaign combat Google’s search results?
As a kid — and still to some extent now — I perceive(d) the US as somewhere I would like to visit but somewhere I would be more concerned about my safety then perhaps if I travelled to the UK or Europe. I attribute this to the ‘bang, bang, shoot-em-up’ genre of films and TV shows that is dominated by the US that I watched growing up and so perhaps my concerns may be unfairly influenced.
Nevertheless, despite the lack of such films coming out of Australia what concerns me is the real stories of student and tourist bashings having a negative impact on future backpackers to this country. I don’t want my country to be perceived by the British version of me as “somewhere to think about safety” and perhaps choose an alternative destination because “I don’t want to spend my whole time worrying.” Perhaps I’m just paranoid but do we want to risk losing the business of those who just might share that same paranoia?
I realise the realists will simply say, “Nowhere is safe anymore and you have to be vigilant wherever you go” but Tourism Australia needs to act to ensure we aren’t perceived like the USA is perceived by some. It’s one thing to show off our magnificent coastline and spectacular outback but TA must reassure travellers there’s not pole-wielding thugs hiding in the bushes waiting to pounce.
This blog originally appeared on Thumbrella, the site for everything under the travel and hospitality umbrella