World tourism map redrawn since attacks

World tourism map redrawn since attacks

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
World tourism map redrawn since attacks

Antalya lost 17 percent of its visitors last month, the lowest level in January. DHA Photo

The world’s tourism map is being redrawn at lightning speed as holidaymakers switch preferences prompted by terror attacks, epidemics and migrant crises.

Jihadist attacks on tourists in Tunisia last year and the October 31 crash of a Russian plane which took off from its Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh have devastated the tourism sectors in both countries. But Muslim countries everywhere are the main losers of the shift in tastes, sector professionals say, as tourists move to destinations they consider safe so long as they’re also sunny.

Overall, world tourism has never been in better shape. Nearly 1.2 billion people travelled abroad in 2015, an increase of 4.4 percent over the previous year, but the casual observer could be fooled by the sight of deserted North African beaches, once tourist hotspots.  

Turkey is one of the victims of attack fears. Germany’s TUI, the world’s biggest tourism group, said Feb. 9 that it had seen bookings to Turkey drop by 40 percent in the wake of an Islamic State suicide attack in Istanbul. Visitor numbers to the top Turkish resort of Antalya dropped by 17 percent last month, the lowest level for the month of January in a decade.

Tunisia, which built its tourism industry on guaranteed sunshine and rock-bottom prices, is the most stunning example of the devastating impact of security fears after murderous attacks targeted foreigners.  

Visitor numbers to Tunisia tumbled by two million in 2015, leaving coast resorts empty, hotels idle and the economy in tatters. Some destinations are collateral damage from attack fears, as tourists appear to make little distinction between countries within the Middle East or North Africa, as Jordan has found to its cost.

“There was no attack, but we were affected tremendously by a drop of visitors coming from Europe,” Jordan’s tourism minister Nayef al-Fayez said recently.

“All Muslim countries are suffering to a greater or lesser degree, even those which have been made totally secure, like Oman,” said Jean-Francois Rial, chairman of French travel operator Voyageurs du Monde.

“The only exception is Iran, but they’ve started from scratch,” he said. 

The migrant crisis has also taken a heavy toll on Greek islands, once a very safe bet for operators, but where masses of refugees have landed, scaring tourists.