Amid threats of terrorism, where will tourists go this winter?

Are global tourists factoring safety into their travel choices more often than they once did?

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File
A couple enjoys a jacuzzi in a swimming pool in Sharm el-Sheikh, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Cairo, Egypt. The cause of Saturday’s crash of a Metrojet flight packed with Russian vacationers returning home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is under investigation, but the Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility and British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was "more likely than not" that a bomb brought down the flight. All 224 on board were killed. Cameron has grounded all British flights to and from Sinai, stranding thousands of tourists, citing "intelligence and information." Germany's Lufthansa Group said later Thursday it was also suspending all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.

In the wake of the Russian plane crash over the Sinai last week, the British government announced Wednesday it will suspend all flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh’s airport. The government will assist in bringing 20,000 British citizens home from the Egyptian resort safely, but it will “take time.” 

While the circumstances surrounding the crash of a Russian plane carrying 224 passengers remain a mystery, British Prime Minister Cameron’s unilateral decision was the first major action to take the terror threat seriously. The British government is also issuing a travel warning advising its citizens from taking “all but necessary” to the area.

It’s probably safe to say Egypt won’t be seeing a surge in tourism this winter.

Between 2010 and 2014, a period of Middle Eastern political upheaval that included the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, British tourism in Egypt declined by at least 18.5 percent, according to the office for National Statistics.

Likely, Tunisia won’t be seeing as many tourists either, following a mass exodus of tourists this year after gunmen attacked a popular resort hotel in Sousse last June, killing 38 guests. Tunisia lost a staggering one million tourists in the eight months after the hotel attack. 

Other popular resort hubs that boast sandy, white beaches and coral, such as the Maldives, Greece, and Turkey, are seeing fewer tourists this year than in years prior. The Maldives, which receives roughly one million tourists a year, has recently declared the country to be in a “30-day state of emergency.”

But political instability and terrorism aren’t always a threat to tourism. In Indonesia, Bali saw a rise in tourists despite suicide and car bomb attacks in 2005.

Three years ago, the global tourism industry reached an all-time high with one billion trips taken by tourists traveling outside their home countries. Revenue from global tourism brings in an estimated $1.1 billion a year – and that’s excluding all small-scale revenue generated at local shops and for transportation.

But threats against tourists are raising red flags for many travelers.

According to a study conducted by University of Florida researchers, terrorist threats to tourists received an more notoriety following an attack at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, in which Palestinian militants killed 11 Israeli athletes. The study also pointed to a 1997 attack on an Egyptian temple at Luxor by Islamic militants, where 70 people were killed – sixty of whom were foreign tourists.

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