Since the horrific attacks in Paris a few weeks ago, there has been a sharp fall – around 40% – in the amount of tourists travelling to the French capital. Meanwhile, in London, visitors to popular attractions such as The National Gallery and the London Eye have also declined, admist fear of another assault.
Of course, the Paris atrocities are still so raw, but this, alongside the recent hotel siege in Mali; the Russian plane being brought down over Egypt’s Sinai Pennisular at the end of October; the gun attack which saw over 35 people killed on a Tunisian beach in June; and the bomb attacks in Thailand and Turkey – means that the threat of terrorism is never far from the news bulletins. And these are only the most recent…
What next? When will terrorists strike again and in which city or resort? The US government has issued a global alert which urges travellers to ‘proceed with caution’ when visiting destinations around the world; to avoid large crowds and public modes of transportation.
I can see why – the Paris attacks have left the world reeling and feeling vulnerable. But even though I see the logic of being vigilant, I can’t really understand how this will in any way help to keep people safe. Does it in fact, serve to increase fear and terror amongst the masses – tapping into people’s already frightened psyches? Of course, the US are quick to point out they are not stopping people from travelling – but it’s in this passive aggressive reaction that will stop them.
Quite frankly, where in the world is safe? That’s the million dollar question.
As a frequent traveller, I am always cautious. You are in a new country and city – venturing into the unknown. It serves as common sense to be mindful of your surroundings and the strangers you meet.
When I was in Nepal back in 2001, there were huge violent riots in Kathmandu and a curfew issued by the police. While I never felt in any immediate danger, or the need to leave, the media’s reporting meant that my family were terrified for my safety and needlessly so. Meanwhile, back in 2013 when we were travelling to Egypt’s Taba resort, we were advised not to go to the country because of the mass violent protests in Cairo. We still went, and gladly so when I realised how much the livelihoods of the working men and women had been affected by the dent in Egypt’s tourist industry.
The point I am getting at is… putting the threat of terror to one side, there is always going to be some natural disaster, some protest, some lunatic, some worry… some attack. Nepal lost thousands of lives in the April earthquakes; pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed a plane into the Alps, killing 150 people; while Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared off the face of the Earth.
I live and work in London, get on the tube everyday. If I was to avoid large crowds in the capital then I would need to give up my job and live as a hermit in the woods.
We cannot be cowed by these terrorists. We cannot interrupt our lives and not strive to go and see the world and be richer for it because of the fear of being hurt or killed.
The awful reality is, these terrorist cells are no doubt plotting attacks all across the globe – no country or city will ever be truly safe again but that, sadly, is the era we live in now.
You may say that it’s easy for me to stoic in the face of this because I haven’t been directly affected by terrorism – no one I know has been hurt or killed. But it’s not about scoring brownie points on who has suffered the most – I am human and I have a heart. I cried along with the rest of the world when I saw the terror on the Paris streets. I cried silently as I stood at the 9/11 memorial in New York. I was physically shaken when London was crippled after the tube and bus attacks of 7/7.
While I hope the worldwide travel alert has no effect on most travellers, the very idea that it may deter others, is frustrating. Travel has and always will be a passion of mine – and I refuse to be paralysed by fear about what could happen if I go abroad.
I am a huge advocate of being able to travel and experience different countries because it’s both rewarding and stimulating. It teaches tolerance, empathy and humility, and more than anything, in these uncertain times, we all need a big dose of those.
If we’ve learned anything from the recent attacks, it’s that terrible, horrific things can happen anywhere – even in our own backyards. And, while I will always put my son’s safety first, I will not stop travelling with him because I truly believe he is all the better for it. So instead of living in fear, let’s show these terrorists that they cannot and will not win.