Tourist terrorism

By | Category: Travel rumblings

indexYesterday, two bomb attacks at Brussels’ Zaventum airport and one at a metro station killed 34 people and injured more than 250. To all, we send condolences and, for those injured or who witnessed those terrible atrocities, best wishes for a speedy recovery in both mind and body.

Today there are jitters. The airport in the French city of Toulouse was evacuated after a suspicious package was found but has now re-opened. Governments worldwide have been quick to upgrade security plans with France adding 1,600 extra personnel at transport locations. Both Gatwick and Heathrow have more security staff patrolling the public areas. In Australia, the prime minister has suggested that Europe has been not as assiduous in its security as Australia is.

Zaventum is still closed, (it will be until Thursday) the metro was closed and Eurostar services were mot operating yesterday. Today the early morning trains have left from St Pancras International as Brussels tries to return to normal. The UK and Irish Foreign Offices issued advisory notes warning people not to travel to Brussels and Belgium unless it was absolutely necessary. Similar guidance was issue in the Netherlands and the United States. In Australia, the advice was to reconsider your travel if you are planning to visit Belgium.

We have seen the effects on tourism when terrorist activities take place. After the November attacks in Paris, tourism slumped for that month and much of the following one. In Istanbul which has received many attacks in the last few months, tourism has markedly declined and shows no signs of an early upturn. Brussels, a popular city break destination, will suffer in the short term because all cities that are similarly affected do.

Terrorists are attacking one of the world’s biggest industries and, although it is resilient, the effects on local employment and the economy can have a significant impact. As the industry most likely to lead a country forward from a slump, attacks that deter visitors hit harder than just an initial impact. And virtually every target is a magnet for tourists. London, New York, Madrid, Paris, Kenya, Tunisia and Egypt are just some of the places to have had their tourist industries hit for short or longer periods.

How do they cope?

Better vigilance, more visible security/police/army people on the streets seem to be the politicians answer but that has been the mantra for decades – at least in the UK – where we experienced the Irish terrorist acts of the 1970’s. Negotiation between the parties has seemingly ended that. Would the same approach end IS/DAESH? Will we just have to get used to fanatics of whatever persuasion using tourist terrorism as a way of publicising their causes?

How do we make more secure airports, major train stations and ports, all places that visitors will gather in large numbers? One solution might be to expand on the sort of facility offered by the commercial firm, Portr. They collect your luggage the night before, take it to the airport and you next see it delivered to your hotel. If this became the norm, then all bags could be securely vetted before arrival at the airport. This just leaves the issue of carry-on luggage which might have to be restricted to just reading matter.

Whatever the solution, airport and transport security organisations have a huge task that somehow they have to resolve and not just by hoping it will go away.

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