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Terror and tourism: Enough is enough

Terror and tourism: Enough is enough

When Yasser Arafat said in 1999, “I formally and absolutely renounce all forms of tourism” (sic), we may assume that Arafat meant “terrorism” rather than “tourism” – yet that may have been an omen, as certainly the two cannot co-exist comfortably and one certainly damages the other.

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By Andrew J Wood

Sunday 25 June 2017, 02:00PM


Security has been ramped up at key tourist sites following the spate of terror attacks this year. Photo: AFP

Security has been ramped up at key tourist sites following the spate of terror attacks this year. Photo: AFP

Even before the Finsbury Park mosque attack in London last Monday (June 19), UK PM Theresa May said, “There is far too much tolerance of extremism in our society, we cannot and must not pretend that things can continue to carry on as they are...” She added, “Enough is enough.”

Of course, the UK is not alone as a target. In Europe in March 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings in Belgium left 32 dead and 340 injured. The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, described it as a “black day” for Belgium.

And in Paris in November 2015 simultaneous attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers at multiple venues; a concert hall, a major stadium, a restaurant and in bars and cafés - the shootings and bombings left 130 people dead and with more than 100 in a critical condition and hundreds wounded.

The attacks were described by then President Francois Hollande as an “act of war” organised by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

It was 9/11 way back in 2001 when 2,977 people were killed in NYC. But today, even after millions of man hours and huge amounts of money having been spent fighting terrorism, the threats remain and attacks increase.

Theresa May is correct: enough is enough. It’s time to stamp out extremism, and tolerance has be paired with common sense. If we allow isolation within our communities then the end results could lead to breeding dangerous ideological fanaticism. Which without any checks and balances can lead to terrorism, an unwelcome by-product.

The global travel and tourism industry has been affected plainly affected by all these attacks. In each city where these attacks have taken place, tourism declines. Thankfully, for a limited time only. Indignation rises, as does nationalist sentiment, but what happens next? Tourism leaders must continue to work with all sectors to bring about change. And world leaders agree that change has to happen.

In the fight to transform our world, to make it a more peaceful and safer place to live, there are no better ambassadors for change than the travel and tourism industry.

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In Bangkok “Transforming our World” was the theme of WTTC’s Global Summit last month. The Summit set out to find out what it will take for Travel & Tourism to actively engage in and maximize its contribution to this theme.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, reminded delegates of the words of new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, “The world can and must harness the power of tourism” and added that “the right to travel, right to enjoy the world, to do business, to cross borders… has now become a human right.”

One clear message emerging from these discussions in Bangkok were that for transformation to occur, Travel & Tourism leaders need to stand up and be counted, and should take personal responsibility for making the world a better place. I would also add a safer and more peaceful place.

Expectations of the sector are high, and these words were reinforced by both the Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and former UK PM David Cameron.

Terrorism was also a topic at the recent 17th SCO Summit in Astana. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an Eurasian political, economic and security organisation; their eight member states include China, Russia, India and Pakistan. Together they cover a space of about 23% of the globe, comprising of 45% of the world’s population and earn 25% of the world’s GDP.

The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko; President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif indicated that the most critical issue being faced by humanity is terrorism, and SCO members must work together to defeat it.

Participants of the SCO Summit also indicated that illegal migration leads to global terrorism, and the recent wave of terrorism in Europe is linked with illegal migration and instability in the Middle East.

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