The impact of terrorism on tourism by mark bennett and harry bray

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  1. Introduction

  2. Egypt an al- Gama’a al- Islamiya

  3. The Kenyan tourist decline

  4. The global effects on tourism of September 11th attacks

  5. Conclusions

  6. Bibliography

1. Introduction
The correlation between tourism and terrorism is undeniable in the modern era due to the strength of the industry and the fact that these honey pot sites such as the pyramids of Geza act as an ideal target place for terrorist attacks in order to cause large amounts of social and economic disruption.
The economy in the 21st century is dominated by three industries telecommunications, information technology and tourism. Tourism provides 10.5% of global employment with in excess of 25% in areas such as the Caribbean. It has been estimated that by 2008 more then 100 million people world wide will be employed in the sector according to the WTO (World tourism organization)
The travel and tourism industries have grown by 500% in the last 25 years and it is estimated that in the year 2007 tourists will spend US$884 billion in foreign countries on tourism related activities. For many countries in the developing world tourism is the most critical form of income in terms of GDP and therefore a major influence in any economic development. The problem is for many of these less economically developed countries is that any political issues they may have could cause conflict with other groups of people who have certain political beliefs could lead to the application of terrorist attacks mainly due to religious and political opinions and/or land ownership.
These actions of terrorist activity on these tourist areas will most definitely have an adverse effect on the countries economy. According to Adam Blake and Thea Sinclair accoeding to the WTO, “The contribution of tourism and travel to both industrialized and developing countries is now so great that any downturns in the level of activity are a cause for concern. The repercussions extend beyond activities directly associated with tourism, notably airlines, hotels and catering, to sectors that supply intermediate or final goods that are purchased by firms and employees in the industry, so that all sectors of the economy are affected to a greater or lesser effect.” In reality the quotation relates to the global impact of terrorist attacks and shows how the multiplier effect can work in reverse. For example, an initial decline of tourism may cause a negative impact on employment, homelessness, crime and other economic and social implications which are caused by terrorism, crime and the closure of borders.
There are a number of supporting case studies where these terrorist attacks have caused a number of problems for tourist activity in a country including Egypt and the governments confrontations with al-gama’a al-Islamiya where they targeted international tourists in a five year period from 1992, as well as Kenya where tourism has declined due to the bombing of a US embassy in Nairobi, the beach hotel in Mombassa in 2002 and the failed missile strike against a plane carrying Israeli tourists. However, referring back to the multiplier effect, tourism had managed to sustain any continuous loss of negative tourism growth after a terrorist attack in their relative country until the September 11th attacks which changed tourism’s relationship with terrorism significantly. This involved the hijacking of planes by al Qaeda in New York. The industry had taken a few declines throughout its existence for example during the Gulf war where global tourism decreased from 21.5% in 1990 to 3.2% in 1991 a but this soon improved to 13.5% in 1992. However, with the September 11th attacks the tourism industry was at a peak with high passenger numbers and success from the major tour operators and therefore the implications were even more dramatic not only for the tourism sectors in America but globally and arguably causing general economic problems worldwide due to the negative multiplier effect.

2. Egypt and al-gama’a al- Islamiya

Egypt is located in North Africa bordering Libya, Sudan, The Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. The country has a population of about 78 million people with a very high population density along the River Nile and in Cairo due to the highly fertile land (roughly 40,000 km2 ). However, to the West of Egypt much of the population is sparsely populated due to the Sahara Desert.

Rainfall in Egypt is the least in the world with the country averagely recording 2 to 5mm every year. The temperature is also very hot with 27-32°C recorded in the summer and 13-21°C in winter. The Khamaseen is an infamous wind which carries sand and dust sometimes raising the air temperature. This strengthens the country’s reliance on water from the River Nile. b

The main resorts in Egypt are Hurghada, El Goana, Taba and Sharm el Sheikh which are all located on coastal areas. These areas are popular for the marine ecology and the sandy beaches. There is also a niche for more tailored holidays such as Nile cruises and historic tourism due to its geography and ancient history.


Egypt is a reasonably good case study when comparing terrorism’s effect on tourism primarily for two reasons. Firstly, Egypt benefits strongly from international tourism partially due to the Pyramids of Giza and the Aswan Dam. The country is also Islamic and many terrorist attacks are those from the Islamic community undertaken by a small group of extremists who further their beliefs through the undertaking of terrorist activity. In this sense the Egyptian government has great problem limiting the extremism of the Islamic beleifsterrorism which acts as a detriment to their own economic prosperity.
Al-gama’a al- Islamiya has had a long history in Egypt acting as a terrorist group since their first appearances in the late 1970’s. They fought against the country adopting Shari law which was a fundamentalist law which involves strict laws on dress code, customs, treatment of non- Muslims and sexual relations. This sort of law forms the basis of extremist Islam in the modern society. They targeted tourists for a number of reasons. Firstly, tourists are very easy targets. Many of them are on package holidays and therefore terrorists can plan when their tour bus will arrive or when sittings for lunch will take place and so forth. Therefore it makes it very easy to precisely plan where and when the attacks could take place. Secondly, most targets understand how the tourist industry is an elastic market and the consumers are free to choose where they go on holiday. Therefore, they understand that governments would be put at a loss if tourists travel to other countries. In the eyes of the terrorists they see this possible economic depression as a result of a decline in tourist numbers as a step to achieving their goals.
The first attack took place in 1992 when gun men attacked a cruise ship which was carrying Germans killing 100 people. These types of attacks continued over four years when cruise ships and trains of tourists were constantly attacked. However, it was on 18th April 1996 when eighteen people were killed when terrorists hit a bus shelter where 150 Greek people were waiting. This was very important worldwide because it emphasized a new terrorist ethos which was to kill as many people as possible. Another major attack took place in 1997 when terrorists killed 57 tourists of different nationalities in a temple after killing local policemen. The smaller attacks have continued subsequently with the latest being in 2005 in the resort of Sharm al Sheik.
Constant attacks on Egypt’s resorts have caused a fluctuation in international tourists between 1992 and 2001 as shown by the graph c.

The graph illustrates there was a general increase in the number of international tourists between 1992 and 2001 although there were a number of years when tourist numbers decreased as a result of serious terrorist activity. Tourism was seen to decrease after the 1992 river cruise attack but this was repelled by two years of consecutive tourism revenue growth. It took its biggest decrease in 1997 after the gun raid on the temple. However, the tourism industry showed how resilient it was and how much demand there was by increasing tourism receipts by 50% with a record $4.3 billion in 2000 just two years after the lowest receipts was recorded as a consequence of the temple attacks in Luxor.

These affects of the tourism in Egypt seemed not to be affected by the terrorist attacks as it showed continuous growth on the graph. This proves that the tourism is far too resilient to be affected significantly by terrorism because there is such as strong need for holidays and international tourism is still important to tourists as they want something foreign as a holiday. The risks of terrorism outweigh the possibility of visiting the pyramids or experiencing the climate in the eyes of the tourists. However, the sustainability of such continuous terrorist attacks must be considered. Eventually the impact on tourism will not be as resilient to terrorism as tourism companies will not want to invest in the country in terms of hotels, airport facilities and flights into the countries because of the risk they might get attacked or tourist numbers begin to drop. If this begins to happen international investment will decrease and cause infrastructure problems (in local hospitals, police and road networks especially). This could also lead to higher crime rates as unemployment rises in the area due to loss of jobs in the tourism sector and the result will be that confrontations between groups is likely to worsen. This in essence is what Al-gama’a al- Islamiya set out to achieve.

3. The Kenyan tourist decline
On November the 28th in 2002 a terrorist attack was launched on the hotel paradise in the coastal resort of Mombassa Kenya. A car bomb detonated on the lobby steps of the hotel killing 13 and injuring 80 tourists. The attacks were carried out by a group affiliated with al-Qaeda who were responsible for the 9 11 attacks.


Mombassa is the centre of coastal tourism in Kenya. Mombassa Island itself isn't a main attraction, although many people visit Old town and Fort Jesus. North of Mombassa Island are Nyali, Kenyatta, Bamburi and Shanzu beaches. South of the town there are Shelly, Tiwi and Diani beaches. Several luxury hotels exist on these beaches, while most of the cheaper beach hotels are located farther away from the town.

Mombassa Kenya, where the terrorist attacks took place

In Mombassa tourism is the main sector of employment according to WTO. Due to the terrorist attacks this discourages holidays etc. and demand and flights decreased. Both British Airways and Kenya Airways recorded flight cancellations as hotel bookings post the 2002 attack due to fear installed by terrorists as well as the general trend of the economy and peoples unwillingness to fly post 9 11. Fortunately for this LEDC whose economy partiality relies on tourism increasing since the attacks but the attack originally led to large unemployment in the area which stimulated a negative multiplier effect in the area, leading to loss of jobs not directly related to tourism but relied on the local peoples trade.

4. The Global effects on tourism of September 11th attacks
On September 11th 2001 there was a series of coordinated terrorist suicide attacks. Two United States airliners were hijacked and intentionally crashed into the World Trade Centre building in New York by terrorists acting under the command of the al-Qaeda terrorist group killing 2,972 people, 19 of those terrorists the rest civilians.

This has been the most influential act of terrorism affecting the travel and tourist industry in the 21st century is definetly the September the 11 attacks. However these attacks weren’t targeted specifically at the tourist industry unlike the attacks in Bali and Kenya but their economic impact on the industry was far more substantial overall due to the sheer size of the attacks and the effect it had on tourist’s behaviour. Although the previous terrorist attacks had caused problems yet the industry had remained resilient; it was the attacks in New York and it’s sheer size which truly shaped the industry.

The total economic impact of 9/11 is realistically immeasurable; however the world travel and tourism council has estimated the decrease of the travel and tourism demand world wide to be 10%. This equates to the jobs loss of 8.8 million people globally including airlines, hotels, tour operators, car rental and credit card companies, creating a 1.7% decrease of total GDP for the world economy. However, it is important to consider that the other factors which may have caused a decrease in total GDP worldwide. For instance this is a world measure so external factors such as natural disasters and disease outbreaks may have caused this downturn. Also in terms of the terrorist attacks, the economic downturn may not be caused solely by loss in tourism. For instance a loss in income from retail in the city or a loss of international trade.

Combined with a lull in the global economy, the attacks on the world trade centre in New York resulted in 4 million less international arrivals world wide in 2001 in comparison to the previous year. This obviously indicates an element of fear introduced and an unwillingness to fly particularly on transatlantic flights showing that the tourist industry was affected on a global scale not just in America. There was a decrease in international tourists in the UK with a 12% decrease in visitor numbers to Westminster Abbey, 20% at the tower of London and 16% at the Tate Britain. However, American foreign travel to the USA was most affected with visits falling by 20%. In terms of the passenger numbers the short term affect was reasonably catastrophic for the airline companies. Passenger numbers for the principal New York airports (John F Kennedy, Newark and La Guardia) suffered a drop to 38,456,239 in 2002 compared to 44,166,012 in 2001.( Both British airways and American airlines suffered losses as demand dropped especially in the full service scheduled market which left the market for new lower cost airlines to be more competitive. British airways battled with Go, Easyjet, Ryanair and a decreased supply for their service.

Although a number of travel and tourism companies have reported a large decrease in demand, the long-term outlook for travel and tourism demand is expected to slowly brighten as the customer confidence is likely to rise with the increase of security etc. and demand for flights and holidays is on the increase. This can be backed up with the increase of 547384 between 2002 and 2003 at the New York airports. This is caused by relatively cheap prices in the airline market which acts as a repellent to people’s fears of attacks on planes. It seems in the long term, people are undeterred by continuous security threats such as the ‘baby milk bombings’ in 2006 and the Glasgow airport car crash in 2007.

The long term effects of September 11th attacks has caused a lot more cautiousness because the tourism industry was growing at too quickly thanks to cheap flights and more disposable income especially in North America and Europe. The industry will most likely never grow as fast as it did before the attacks as a precaution for any more possible declines. As stated by Adam Blake and Thea Sinclair from the WTO, “The contribution of tourism and travel to both industrialized and developing countries is now so great that any downturns in the level of activity are a cause for concern”

5. The conclusions
It is undeniable that the effects of terrorism in tourist areas have an adverse effect on the economy of that country as seen with Egypt and Kenya. However, after an initial drop in tourist number things eventually return to normal. This can be seen with Egypt and in a global sense with people’s attitudes towards flying in regards to the September 11th attacks. This may be due to grants from government funding to redevelop attacked areas or maybe because the possible threats of terrorism cannot cancel out the thrills of visiting foreign areas and being an international tourist. It is unreasonable to suggest that people will stop flying after September 11th even if in the short term there is a decrease. This is because in the modern era people need to fly to reach different destinations.
As such a provider of employment and economic prosperity in many countries, the tourist industry must be able to remain resilient in the face of adversity. Although tourists act as an easy target for terrorists if the industry remains flexible in its ability to diversify when tourism numbers take a downturn it will help ensure economic prosperity is maintained and defeat the primary objectives of the terrorist groups.
6. Bibliography
a =

b =

c = ‘Egypt- Human Rights abuses’ by Armed groups, Amnesty International, September 1993
‘Tourism and recreation’ by Jane Dove

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