"Terrorist attack? What terrorist attack?"
It was late at night last week, and I had just returned to my room from an evening enjoying the tastes, sights and sounds of a jubilant Bastille Day at the famed Hôtel Belles Rives, which inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write the extravagant party scenes of The Great Gatsby.
But now my brother, back in Canada, was worriedly texting me.
It was the first I had heard of the sheer terror that had befallen Nice, France, my location mere hours earlier on July 14. It had been a day of celebration in France, and I had spent the afternoon walking up and down Nice's sun-drenched Promenade des Anglais. That night, after I made my way to dinner in neighbouring Antibes, and as thousands celebrated under cascading fireworks, disaster struck the very spot I had been.
I texted my brother back: "I'm fine."
Fine? Physically, yes. Emotionally, no. I was shocked. I was saddened. I didn't want to let terror win.
As somone who works in the travel industry, I understand the economic importance of tourism. I'm acutely aware the effect catastrophe can have on a destination – and, more importantly, the people who make their living from foreigners' dollars.
Throughout my travels across the French Riviera last week, local industry colleagues had already expressed great concern over low visitor numbers for this summer season, almost entirely due to terrorism fears. I am worried for what this latest attack will do to their economies, both in the immediate aftermath and in the long term.
Whether in Nice or throughout the world, the vast majority of people are simply trying to live peacefully every day. When we base travel decisions on fear, we are not harming those who perpetrate terror. We are harming only those who rely on tourism as the driver of their everyday peaceful existence. I tell my colleagues that we must lead through our words and actions, reminding our clients that their travel is not simply for their own pleasure. Travel transcends the individual: It is an act that contributes to the greater good of so many others and benefits us all.
Arriving back in Nice early Friday morning, just hours after the attack, was a humbling yet emboldening experience. As the sun rose over the city, the shock and sadness was palpable. I felt chills.
However, I was warmed and strengthened to see that the boardwalks were once again full of life. And as my flight back to Canada glided along the coast of Nice and Antibes, and I reflected on the strength of the French people, I resolved to not let terror win – to never, ever live in fear. That is my duty as a travel ambassador, as a global citizen and as a Canadian privileged with the ability to explore the world.
Engraved on the marbled lobby walls of Hotel Belles Rives is a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, dated March 15, 1926: "With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera I'm happier than I've been for years. It's one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one's life seems to be going well."
Let us all continue to travel, to experience our own strange, precious and transitory moments – to live life to the fullest every day for ourselves, but more importantly for us all.
Tim Morgan is the vice-president of TPI-Travel Professionals International, Canada's largest and leading network of independent travel advisors.