Terror and tourism: The countries we no longer visit (and where we're going instead)
Redrawing the travel map
Published 02/06/2016 | 05:01
Terrorist attacks and Europe’s migrant crisis are changing the face of summer travel, says Hugh Morris.
Turkey, Greece, Tunisia and Egypt are among those countries counting the cost of Europe's migrant crisis and fears over terrorism, with new figures revealing a sharp fall in foreign arrivals.
Egypt has suffered the most, with data showing the number of tourists down 46pc in 2016, when compared to the same period last year.
The country’s main resort, Sharm el-Sheikh, has been virtually out of bounds to British and Irish visitors since October, when Russian MetroJet Flight 9268 was brought down in the Sinai region by terrorists.
The UK Foreign Office responded by advising against air travel to the resort, prompting tour operators to pull out of the region, while the Irish Aviation Authority has warned Irish airline operators not to operate to/from Sharm el-Sheikh airport or in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula airspace until further notice.
Greece, meanwhile - whose eastern islands are the first port of call for thousands of migrants fleeing conflict in Syria and Libya - has experienced an 11pc fall in visitors in 2016, following a 7pc rise last year.
Civil instability and terror attacks have also kept visitors away from Turkey, which has seen a 9.9pc fall in arrivals so far this year.
Meanwhile Tunisia, to which the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised Irish citizens not to travel since a terror attack at the beach resort of Sousse last year, has experience an 18.7pc drop in visitor numbers.
Nor is the tourist fall-off confined to North Africa and eastern Europe. France (above) has also witnessed a decline in visitors, with numbers down 8pc so far this year - with the Paris attacks last November a probable cause.
Where are we going instead?
The figures, collated by market research group Euromonitor from the World Tourism Organisation, also show where tourists are choosing to travel instead of these destinations, with Spain, Portugal and Croatia all experiencing large spikes in arrivals so far this year.
Croatia has seen a 17pc surge, Spain a rise of 13.9pc, and visitors to Portugal are up by 15pc. Euromonitor also said that Germany, Netherlands and Malta had experienced growth so far in 2016, while Ireland has experienced its busiest ever first quarter, clocking one million arrivals for the first time.
Prices are rising for package holidays from Ireland to Spain and the Canaries, while Abta, the UK travel body, has warned holidaymakers of waning availability in traditionally popular sun destinations such as Spain and Italy.
Nadejda Popova, travel project manager at Euromonitor, said the latest EgyptAir plane crash is likely to further impact Egypt's struggling tourism industry.
“Currently, Egypt’s tourism is surviving very much thanks to the heavily discounted prices used to lure budget travellers, and the question is how much are these low-spending tourists ready to visit Egypt in light of recent events?” she said.
“The government must reassure travellers and potential tourists that the country is doing enough to uproot terrorism and secure the safety of travellers.”
Egypt’s tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, promised additional security measures earlier this year, including £26 million worth of X-ray machines and body scanners, but it is not yet enough to convince the UK Foreign Office, which still advises against travel by air to Sharm el-Sheikh, effectively cutting off the popular Red Sea resort.
The Department of Foreign Affairs advises against non-essential travel to Egypt, but Sharm is listed as an exception, where Irish citizens are advised to exercise a high degree of caution and to avoid travelling outside the resort.
Tunisia is also facing a battle to convince the UK and Irish governments to declare it safe. Last week, the Tunisian ambassador to the UK issued a plea to the Foreign Office to relax travel restrictions to the North African country, claiming the loss of tourism is crippling the economy.