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The International Writers Magazine
: Tourism Issues

A former student of mine called me the other day. ‘You know how you used to go on about ‘The Death of Global Tourism’ and how it will bring the world economy to a nasty halt? Well I think it is happening'.
She had spent five hours in a line up to check in to get to the States, a two and half hour wait to get to the passport control in New York and then six hours in a ‘room’ as she was carded as being suspicious of wanting to ‘stay’. This is a woman with a good career in banking in the UK. Respectable and polite. A regular visitor to the States. She will never go again.

You hear it every day now. How hostile and unwelcoming American customs are to EVERYONE- no matter their colour or religion. I imagine it is a tad worse if you also happen to be a Muslim or just ‘look like one’.

If I were a Disneyworld shareholder in the USA, or a hotel chain owner, any resort or theme park owner, I’d get nervous right about now. Come October 2004 you can’t go to the USA without being fingerprinted, photographed and probably anally probed. The line-ups will be 10 hours long and there is no guarantee they will let you in when you get there. Ian McKewan the author was prevented from entering for god’s sake and he is hardly likely to blow up the White House. (although I am sure he felt like it on the day).

It isn’t just America that is heading down this paranoid dead end. As of May 1st, people from 25 countries in Europe will be allowed to come to the UK and any other EU country and if they so wish, work wherever they want. Apparently every bus, plane and boat is booked solid for the Ist and it will be like D-Day in reverse. (We shall watch the headlines). A survey in Poland had that 47% of students at Universities in Poland intended to leave their country when they graduated. (Source BBC Radio4 Today Programme April 27.)

The UK reaction is one of fear right now because many people are afraid that Poles, Slovaks and others will offer to do the jobs they are doing for half the price and employers will grab them with glee. It won’t happen, but the fear is there.

Travel within Europe is going to be easier, but there will be tensions. It may even get ugly if people in France or the UK feel that ‘foreigners’ are getting their jobs, homes, ‘rights’. Even if not true, political parties of the extreme right will exploit this for political gain in Euro elections this June 10th.

Everywhere else is tightening up regulations, applying restrictions and all this is doing Al Qaeda’s work for them. Bin Laden and his pals want us to live in a tense frightened world. They want people afraid to fly because they don’t know if they will be blown up. or rejected by overzealous customs officers the other end. The want uncertainty to rule and G W Bush is giving it to them wholesale. (We already hear about English people with holiday homes in Florida panic selling because a woman was jailed for overstaying her permit by 10 hours. They may find it hard to sell. Canadians with homes in the sunshine state are suffering from overzealous policing as well and having to sell up.

Is this the death of tourism? No. Fortunately, there are still countries you can go to with some ease. Canada, Mexico (as long as you don’t go caving) and most of South America welcomes you. Australia is still friendly and well if the Brits stopped going to Spain, god knows what would happen to the Spanish economy. But it could happen. Madrid was a warning. The terrorists are saying go on vacation at your peril. We can strike anywhere at anyone. They don’t even care if they kill their own. It’s all ‘Allah’s Will’ apparently.

Of course you might argue that the future of tourism is rosy. The demographics show that there are more an more ‘mature’ people with money wanting to travel. Everyone is wealthier in the west and their kids want to travel and explore the world. Nothing can stop this trend. We can build hotels in Thailand forever and it will never stop. Well terror can stop anything. (Just this week police shot dead 100 Islamic alleged extremists who want to stop tourism in Southern Thailand.) It might be that in future we vacation closer to home, Cornwall or Portugal for example. Places that won’t give us problems. Everyone will WANT to travel, but it might be that given the law of unintended consequences, we go or do something else. That’s for another discussion.

The UK’s answer to terror is to initiate biometric ID cards that will scan your iris to make sure you are you. Being forced to carry an ID in the UK will be a big change to what has been quite a free society. Of course Americans and Canadians carry them all the time as do most people in Europe. It’s one more liberty being lost to terror in the UK.
The US response to terror is to discourage anyone from going there.
(Seemingly, they do not fear the enemy within?)
There will be future shocks and each one of them will make a certain section of the population less inclined to travel. It will be incremental but will increase to a critical mass one day. The countdown to the end of world tourism has begun. Soon enough, it will become a horrible reality.
If I’m wrong. Great. If I’m right, remember about those Disney shares.....

© Sam North May 2004

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