To those of us who remember the IRA’s reign of terror, it’s beginning to look a lot like the 1980s. According to the Daily Mail, Ramadan is set to be particularly dangerous as ISIS terror attacks gain momentum, something that’ll distress ordinary, peace-loving Muslims the world over.
Apparently Western nations the UK, France, Spain and Italy are at particular risk, according to the Institute for the Study of War, who predicted a ‘mass casualty attacks’ on Tunisia and the Shia mosque where 17 people were killed.
Apparently experts believe extremists will also unleash so-called ‘terror cells’ in south-east Asia, places like Malaysia and the Philippines, and a number of surveys have revealed 42 million Muslims in Arab states feel ‘somewhat positively’ towards ISIS. Surely that can’t be true?
The big question is this: would you travel to Tunisia, Malaysia, Spain or even London with things as they are? Or would you prefer to stay home and avoid the risk altogether?
What’s your take on foreign travel right now?
Opinions differ, as you’d expect in a world populated with the risk averse, the risk aware and everything in between.
Some brave (or foolish?) people are looking forward to cheap summer holidays in at-risk regions, happy to take the risk for a bargain break in the sun. Others are deciding to remain home and take a good, old fashioned British staycation, an especially attractive prospect if the weather stays this hot and sunny.
What happens if we let ISIS change our lives?
There’s more to the argument than financial gain and the risk of being blown to smithereens. Take Tunisia, a peaceful, tolerant nation where, just a couple of years ago, the Arab Spring took hold and thrived.
According to The Guardian , the Tunisian tourism industry faces a tough time as thousands of people leave after attack, a potential economic tragedy in the making since the country earns a dramatic 14.5% of its annual GDP from the tourist industry.
As they say:
“Large hotels, such as those the gunman targeted on Friday, may bear the biggest losses. “They are more of a target and tourists may choose to opt to go to smaller places if the authorities are not able to respond effectively,” Popova said.
Tunisia’s tourism ministry confirmed plans on Monday to deploy 1,000 armed officers from 1 July to reinforce the tourism police, who will also carry guns for the first time. Armed officers will be deployed inside and outside hotels, on beaches and at tourist and archaeological sites, the ministry said.”
In Tunisia’s case a drop in tourism could mean real economic hardship. And it’s already happening, with more than 8000 Brits – 40% of those currently enjoying holidays there – leaving the country mid-way through their break.
It’s a situation that also affects our own travel industry, as holiday giants Tui and Thomas Cook are finding out. Both their share prices have tumbled, and it still remains to be seen how the rest of the UK’s holidaymakers react to the violence.
If there’s a run of cancellations across multiple destinations, things could get really nasty for more of our holiday companies. Add the Greek economic crisis and the previously untroubled holiday scene could soon start looking pretty bleak for travel agents as well as millions of ordinary people who live in the countries we love to visit… but are now too scared to risk.
What about the moral argument?
As well as economic, cultural and social issues, there’s a moral quandary to tackle. If we give in, give up and let ISIS and their fellow terrorist organisations change the way we live, will it represent the thin end of an awful wedge? Will we let ourselves be driven into a situation where ISIS has won the advantage as the rest of the world cowers?
It’s a tough one. You might agree, but at the same time feel it isn’t your personal responsibility. Not many of us are willing to risk our lives for a principle, even if it’s a principle that could make or break the future of world peace and democracy.
What does the UK government say about Tunisian travel?
So far the British Foreign Office isn’t advising against all travel to Tunisia. They’re simply advising us to be ‘especially vigilant’. And they’ve pinpointed a few areas they recommend holidaymakers avoid, namely:
- The Chaambi mountain national park
- The Tunisia-Algeria border crossings at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef
- The military region south of El Borma and Dehiba
- Any area within three miles of the Libyan border
At the same time, the Home Secretary Theresa May says there’s no real reason to believe the Tunisian beach attack was specifically designed to harm British tourists. Some see her point – after all, Tunisia’s famously tolerant and laid back attitude to religions and faiths of every kind must be an anathema to ISIS. As May said in a Guardian article:
“As you’ll appreciate, this is still an ongoing investigation and we’re working very closely with the Tunisian authorities in relation to this. I’ve seen no evidence so far that this was targeted because there were British tourists there. But if course we must recognise that this is the most significant loss of British life in a terrorist attack since 7/7 in the UK.”
Jet2 makes an early stand
There are rumblings from elsewhere, for example the low cost holiday provider Jet2, which has hinted they’ll be making a detailed review of the risks. They deployed three additional planes to Tunisia last weekend, and their chief executive, Steve Heapy, is set to visit partner hotels in Sousse, Port el Kantaoui and four more resorts on a fact-finding mission.
For the moment Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays to Tunisia up to and including 5th July, with refunds and booking changes made available to customers. The offer to change destinations is also open to people who’ve booked Tunisian holidays before the end of this month. And Jet2 might end up extending the offer even farther. They say:
“We are currently looking at options for those customers travelling from 1 August and in 2016 and will provide further updates on this.”
Tui extends their deepest sympathy
There’s a heartfelt message from Tui, owner of Thomson and First Choice holidays. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and families of those involved in this tragic event. The whole of Thomson and First Choice are deeply shocked and truly saddened by the events and we are grateful to our staff on the ground and in the air and the emergency services who are working hard in an incredibly challenging environment.”
We’d like to extend the same message to everyone concerned. We’d like to express our disgust at the inhuman attacks ISIS carry out, and for the extreme views they’re determined to spread across the world. We’d also like to express our certainty that ISIS will never win. They’re outnumbered, hated, feared and disrespected. And we, the ordinary people of the world who live in peace and harmony, will not crumble.
What are your holiday plans?
Are you one of those people who are happy to go abroad despite the troubles? Or are you dead-set on a caravan holiday in Worthing instead? If so, why? Let’s get the debate going.