Tourism has become more resilient to the threat of terrorism over the past few years as the market’s attitude has changed from fear to defiance, and last month’s bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh are expected to have only a short-lived effect on the Egyptian resort, according to a new United Nations report.
“In 2001, the September 11 attacks generated fear,” the Secretary-General of World Tourism Organization (WTO), Francesco Frangialli, said of the report by the agency’s report by the Market Intelligence Department, referring to the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington.
“But recent acts of terrorism have been met more by a sentiment of repugnance rather than fear. When faced with terrorism, the members of the society being attacked are determined not to allow violent acts to pressure them into changing their way of life. There has been a shift in the security paradigm with regard to everyday life and travel, as people have come to accept higher levels of uncertainty than in past years,” he added.
“As we have been seeing of late, attacks can happen anywhere, and are not limited to foreign travel destinations. The public must not let itself be deterred from travelling.”
When a series of explosions struck Sharm el-Sheikh on 23 July, causing considerable loss of life and wounding many others, the initial reaction of some tourists was to go home. But as was the case on previous occasions, a significant number decided not to leave and there continued to be new arrivals and bookings.
“In the past few years, civil society has become aware of the global nature of these threats and have resisted caving in to them; people are tending to keep any changes to their habits and behaviour to a minimum,” Mr. Frangialli said. “This has been shown following the recent aggressions suffered in different parts of the world.”
Egypt, like most other emerging destinations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, has experienced robust growth over the past several years. In 1995, it received more than 2.9 million tourist arrivals, a number that soared to nearly 8 million last year, a growth rate of 11 per cent a year. The first four months of 2005 showed even faster growth: 15.6 per cent compared to the same period the previous year. Between 1995 and 2004, Egypt’s earning from international tourism grew from $2.7 billion to $6.1 billion.
The Madrid-based WTO plays a major role in stimulating public-private sector partnerships and encouraging the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to ensure that member countries, tourist destinations and businesses maximize the positive economic, social and cultural effects of tourism and fully reap its benefits, while minimizing its negative social and environmental impacts.