Tourism

Terrorism a major factor when deciding to travel

Hannah Edensor

Fear plays a major role in the decision to travel, new research shows, in particular when it comes to terrorism.

While tourism contributes significantly to economies of developing countries, the past few years have seen terror attacks destabilise tourism sectors, and virtually shut down once buzzing tourist hotspots.

According to the Global Terrorism Index nearly 18,000 deaths were caused by terrorism in 2014, a jump of about 60% over the previous year.

“Given this increasing threat from terrorism it is unsurprising to see that, according to our survey, 71% of Britons who are going abroad for holidays this year stated that a “low threat of terror attack” was an important factor affecting which country to visit,” analyst at Canadean, Gillian Kennedy said.

Whether it is the attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris or the violent execution of tourists in Tunisia, terrorism can have devastating consequences on tourism flows to a country in the short-term, not to mention long term damage.

And Roy Morgan Research’s ceo Michele Levine agrees, saying fear is a huge factor that affects a persons’ willingness to travel, with major issues including “fear of flying, international unrest, war, terror, SARS.”

“These factors have huge impacts on decision-making, and they impact quite quickly on people’s decisions to travel,” Levine said.

The most recent attacks that took place in Tunisia demonstrate the very worrying effects of terrorism on the tourist industry, Kennedy believes.

Following the death of 38 people, including 30 British tourists at a beach resort in Sousse, the damages of the attacks are still resonating, with 3500 British tourists making a mass exodus from Tunisia within days of the attack.

The UK Foreign Office also issued a warning to British citizens that, “Further terrorist attacks in Tunisia, including in tourist resorts, are possible”, and have advised against all but essential travel to most of Tunisia.

A number of countries subsequently updated their travel warnings for Tunisia, with Denmark urging travellers to steer clear of the country, MSC Cruises suspending calls to Tunisia for its 2015-16 cruises season, and even Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urging travellers to ‘Reconsider your need to travel’.

For airlines too, the affects were instantly felt with no further direct flights to the UK from Monastir or Enfidah airports.

For other tourism hotspots, such as Egypt, persistent acts of terror can have long term negative consequences for the tourism industry. Following the Egyptian revolution in 2011, years of political turmoil have damaged Egypt’s tourism industry irrevocably.

Just 9.6 million visitors arrived in Egypt in 2014, down from 14 million in 2010, with further unrest in 2013 seeing visitor numbers dropping to 9.1 million.

But despite the Egyptian government jumping headlong into recovery mode, with large scale investment projects in the Red Sea resorts and the redevelopment of Cairo’s history museums, forecasts indicate that inbound expenditure, which was US$8.7 billion in 2014, will take some time before the country recovers to pre-2011 levels of around US$13.6 billion.

While one-off terror attacks, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, or the 7/7 London bombings can negatively affect a tourism destination in the short term, Kennedy says the effects will not permanently damage the tourism industry in these countries as they have a reputation for stability and security.

Countries perceived by tourists as having suffered repeated terror attacks will see tourists turn away and tour operators and hoteliers are likely to find it difficult to recapture this market.

However, terror acts in stable developed countries such as France and UK are unlikely to harm the tourism industry in the long term.

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