I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I met in Egypt.
When I visited the country two years ago, I met many who had pinned their career hopes and livelihoods on the tourism sector. The guides I hired had spent years going to special industry schools and perfecting their English. They all told me that although Egypt was getting fewer visitors, they were optimistic (especially following the 2014 election) that things would turn around. Tourists, they presumed, could not stay away from the wonders of their country for very long.
These people couldn’t have foreseen the wave of terror attacks that would soon hit the country, nor the general increase in fear around the world. Egypt’s Ministry of Planning recently released a report that showed a 63.3 percent decline in tourism revenues between January and March 2016. Egypt’s Tourism Minister, Yehia Rashed, remains confident though, telling Reuters: “I am very hopeful, optimistic about the future of tourism into Egypt.”
It’s not just Egypt that’s been hit by sluggish tourism, either. Europe has suffered as well. Mark Okerstrom, chief financial officer at Expedia, told the New York Times that, following the Paris attacks, “growth in nightly hotel room bookings after fell to single digits from 20 percent. After the Brussels bombings, bookings went negative, and after Nice, bookings fell by double digits.” Okerstrom finished by saying, “We haven’t seen a bounceback … What we don’t know for certain is whether there’s an overall dampening impact to global travel, or to Europe specifically.”
Likewise, in Belgium, the government reported a nearly 1 billion Euro loss to its economy immediately following the airport and subway bombings in March, with both tourism and shopping revenues plummeting. “This summer, for example, travel from the U.S. to both Istanbul and Brussels took a worrisome dip; over 43 percent and 30 percent respectively. Instead, American tourists traveling abroad chose international destinations that are considered safer, such as Ireland and Portugal,” says Jane Reynolds, Senior Editor at Oyster.com.
However, these declines may not last long. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) found that it generally takes a destination 13 months for its tourism industry to recover from a terrorist attack—that’s far quicker than the average rebound time after a disease outbreak (21 months), environmental disaster (24 months), or political unrest (27 months).
The recovery of any country’s tourism industry is vital. Not only does tourism account for more than 10 percent of the global GDP, it’s also the field that employs one out of every 11 people on the planet. And it’s a force for peace. According to a separate WTTC report, “countries with a stronger tourism sector tend to be more peaceful: An open and sustainable tourism sector means a higher level of positive peace: namely the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Countries with an open and sustainable tourism sector are more likely to enjoy higher levels of positive peace in the future. The more sustainable a country’s tourism sector the lower the country’s level of violence and conflict is likely to be.”
So what does this mean for us as travelers? It’s easy to say that by changing our plans, we let the terrorists win, and that travel is our way of standing up to them. But tourism drops after terror attacks suggest that people do avoid such destinations, at least for a while.
I can’t tell you what’s best for you, but I can tell you what I will do. I have no intention of avoiding places like Paris or Egypt in a retroactive defensive move. Unfortunately, we live in a world where attacks can happen anywhere—whether you’re out enjoying a movie at home in America or sitting in a cafe in Paris. I can’t imagine trying to live my life based on guesses of where tragedy will strike next. I’ll continue to travel and support tourism industries in the hopes that peace will follow.
I hope you’ll do the same, wherever you may feel comfortable.
More from SmarterTravel:
- How Is Terrorism Affecting Travel?
- 8 Packable Things That Could Save Your Life
- 10 Safety Tips Every Traveler Should Know
Editor’s Note: Like SmarterTravel, Oyster.com is part of the TripAdvisor Media Group.