Monday, September 9, 2013

A military strike on Syria is not the best response

If indeed chemical weapons have been used, allegedly on orders from President al-Assad himself, World nations cannot sit idly and be, as US Secretary of State Kerry has said «silent spectators to the slaughter». To do so would condone such actions and invite further violations of widely agreed upon conventions on the ban of such weapons, as affirmed in the 1925 Geneva Protocol and respected by all major world countries.

Does this necessarily mean that a military strike on Syria led by the US and France, with or without the support of a yet to be determined coalition and/or of the UN Security Council, is the best response to what may be construed as mass murder?

The serious dangers of such an attack have been thoroughly explained in many media by very wise and knowledgeable people in that field of expertise. I am no military expert and have nothing to add to that debate; suffice to say that those dangers do exist and cannot be dismissed. I would rather focus on the objective of this planned retaliation and the way to best achieve it.

The objective pursued has been stated by administration officials in France and the United States: it is to «punish» President al-Assad for allegedly resorting to the use of chemical weapons against his own population.

From that standpoint, the truth of the matter is, a military strike will NOT «punish» President al-Assad; it will first and foremost kill lower rank military personnel of the Syrian army and innocent by standing Syrian civilians, both of which had no say in the matter. Let us also take into account the fact that high ranking army officers and/or government officials in Syria have most likely participated in this action. It is unlikely that a military strike will affect those people.

Other traditional courses of actions, such as a blockade or economic sanctions, either cannot be implemented or will not produce the desired effect, because the al-Assad regime has powerful international allies. In fact, I can only think of one effective way to «punish» the perpetrators and deter other tyrants from using such weapons in the future: to indict them in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Some will say that what I propose is impossible, because one must first lay hands on those people before bringing them in front of the court. True, it cannot be done overnight. However, if enough evidence is accumulated for the UN Security Council to issue international arrest warrants, it will be impossible for those responsible for the alleged use of chemical weapons to travel outside Syria, except to sympathetic countries, without being immediately detained, forcibly or not. There have even been cases where war criminals were snatched by strike teams from countries in which they felt safe to be brought to trial.

The system works: in July 2012, the International Criminal Court found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment.

The European Union demands «strong international response» to the alleged chemical attack. I think that a trial in the International Criminal Court would satisfy the EU demand. In fact, I strongly believe that it is the only just and effective response to the alleged crime.

Let us not forget what Winston Churchill has said: «To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war». In the long term, a diplomatic, also legal in this case, solution is always preferable to military intervention.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Use of Social Networks in the Hospitality Industry

In 2011, with a team of students from the Bachelor program in Tourism and Hospitality Management at the ESG UQAM School of Management, I led a study on the use of social networks in the hospitality industry. I thank those students for their collaboration: Julie Angibaud, Gabriel Comtois, Catherine Choquette, Virginie Côté, Marie, Carmel Dambreville, Jessica Della Ripa, Émilie Laborde, Virginie Lavergne-Mayer, Maxime Péladeau, Jean-Paul Thions et Kristel Young.

In the central districts of Montreal, those featuring the largest number of tourists, we contacted the 256 lodging establishments listed on this territory; amongst those, 84 agreed to respond to our questionnaire. True, this sample is relatively small in absolute terms, but it nonetheless represents over 32% of the companies in question, which is very significant.

This study reveals several interesting facts. First, unsurprisingly, as you can see in the chart below, Facebook, with 52.4% of respondents, is by far the most widely used social network in this industry, followed distantly by YouTube (28.0%), then by Twitter (19.5%) and LinkedIn (17.3%) almost tied in third place; Foursquare (7.5%), which attracts a very specific type of user, and some others are far behind.

The next table sums the purpose for which lodging establishments use social networks. We can see that even in this age of an interactive Web, the advertising function still dominates; thus, 93.2% of respondents say that they use social networks to «develop property awareness» and 72.7% use it to announce «last minute promotion». However, the next three elements fully take advantage of interactivity on the Web 2.0; thus, 68.2% of the respondents promote the posting of comments and an equal percentage the publication of pictures, while 45.5% initiate the creation of a community amongst their clientele. Three other uses are in line with traditional functions in the hospitality industry, that is announcing «exceptional properties» in a hotel chain (38.6% of respondents), «customer service» (36.4%) and a sub-function of the latter, «concierge extension» (27.3%).

Is a presence on social networks beneficial for establishments that adopt this practice? The final table summarizes the three main benefits mentioned by respondents of our study. First, in this era of fierce competition, 50.0% of respondents say that their presence on social networks helps to build customer loyalty. Second, while profitability, the excess of revenues over expenses, is a concern of every moment, 26.2% of respondents say that their presence on social networks helps to increase their revenues. Finally, while some accommodation facilities are struggling to fill their rooms, 26.2% of respondents say that their presence on social networks helps to raise their occupancy rate.

Hence, a presence on social networks is beneficial; yet, this practice is not widespread in the hospitality industry. In a coming post, I will discuss the type of institution that makes the most use of social networks and the reasons given for not using them.