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30 May, 2003

Racism Fears Influence Muslim Travel Destination Choice

This dispatch of Travel Impact Newswire discusses one of the most profoundly disturbing shifts taking place in travel trends worldwide.

– From the 10th Arabian Travel Mart, May 6-9, 2003 in Dubai.

In this dispatch:

“Harsh new restrictions on Muslim visitors have told potential friends that the United States no longer wants them. Goodwill is being squandered; Americans will pay.” — This is the exact wording of a major paper on this subject published in the prestigious publication Foreign Affairs in May/June 2003. This dispatch of Travel Impact Newswire discusses one of the most profoundly disturbing shifts taking place in travel trends worldwide.






Apart from the war on terror and the huge range of security upgrades, one of the most profoundly disturbing side-effects of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent chain of geopolitical events has been the trend for travel decisions to be based on fear of racial/ethnic discrimination and political preferences. Specifically, Americans are not generally travelling to Islamic and Muslim-majority countries and vice versa.

This became pretty much apparent in the summer of 2002 to Middle East tour operators and was later reconfirmed in research conducted by the Dubai-based travel research company Market Vision. In a presentation at the Arabian Travel Market 2003, Market Vision Managing Director Gautam Sengupta said that 9/11 had a profound impact on global outbound travel attitudes, patterns and behaviour.

Mr Sengupta noted that in 2000, regional Middle East destinations, except Turkey, did not even figure on the top five outbound destinations of Gulf Travellers, who comprise about 60pc of total outbound Middle East travellers. In fact, data at that time indicated that the top five most popular destinations between 2001-2003 would be Turkey, USA, Spain, Britain and France.

When Market Vision conducted its first Travel Barometer in October 2001, a month after the attacks, North America disappeared from the list of countries that were considered to be the most popular destinations over the next three years. The top three regions were projected to be Europe, Middle East & Africa and Far East / Southeast Asia. The Top Five destinations were identified as Britain, France, Egypt, Malaysia/Thailand and Australia.

The research showed that the regional destinations set to gain increasing tourist interest would be Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Kenya. Australia was attracting increasing interest. It was also forecast that there would be a growth in domestic tourism, led by Saudi Arabia, the most populous of the Middle East countries.

Overall, said Mr Sengupta, during the six weeks following Sept 11, outbound travel bookings declined by 40-50pc. Overall decline from September-December 2001 was 15-18pc. The incident left in its wake an increase in short haul travel and reduced spending per trip.

The second Travel Intent Barometer conducted in June 2002, just prior to the year’s high season summer travel season, cited fears of racial harassment as the top reason for choice of destination. Related trends were also confirmed, such as a shift in favour of destinations in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Asian sub-continent, which were generally considered safe/friendly as well as a preference for ‘safe airlines,’ like national carriers.

The reality turned out to be pretty much along those lines. In 2002 over 2001, Dubai experienced a 31pc growth in arrivals, led by intra-regional traffic, including a 20pc growth in Saudi visitors. Visitors to Lebanon doubled, with an 18pc growth in Saudi visitors. Qatar and Oman also experienced growth, albeit from a small base. Other countries experienced major growth were Malaysia, Turkey, Germany and Switzerland. The one projection that did not quite prove correct was the continued preference for Britain, which according to statistics presented by VisitBritain (formerly the British Tourist Authority) experienced a five per cent decline in arrivals from the Middle East last year.

This year, the new wave of Travel Intent Barometer questions was launched on May 16 to measure the impact of global events, including SARS, on Gulf outbound travel. For the first time, it incorporates custom questions from the travel industry (airlines, hotels, tour operators and travel agencies and NTOs) to aid in their marketing strategy development and promotion planning. Questions about the fear of racial discrimination are included. (See full list of questions below)

The results will be prepared by 15 June 2003 and available on a subscription cost of US$1,500 / AED 5,500. Potential buyers who cite making the purchase through Travel Impact Newswire are entitled to a 5pc discount. Pls address your inquiries directly to Mr Gautam Sengupta <info@market-vision.com> and cite Travel Impact Newswire to gain the discount.

Here is the full list of questions being posed in the Third Wave of Travel Intent Barometer. Questions are being directed via email/internet/telephone interviews to about 600 residents of the UAE and Gulf region.

1. Have your business or holiday travel plans for the summer (June-September 2003) undergone any change because of global / regional events?

2. Which country or countries do you plan to travel to during the period June-September 2003? For what purpose (Business/Holiday/Other)? And what is the main motivation for selecting this or these destinations?

3. If you have cancelled or postponed any trips originally planned for the period June-September 2003, to which destinations were these trips intended, for what purpose (Business/Holiday/Other) and why did you cancel/postpone your trip/s?

4. Which specific countries or destination regions, if any, would you definitely not go to and which ones, if any, would you hesitate to travel to over the next one (1) year?

5. What would be the primary reason for not wanting to travel to these countries/regions:

  • Fear of flying
  • Fear of new terrorist attacks
  • Fear of war
  • Fear of the destination (not “safe”)
  • Fear of discrimination/harassment
  • Fear of SARS
  • Others

6. Which countries, if any, are you likely to travel to on business between October 2003 & December 2003 and which countries, if any, are you likely to travel to on holiday between October 2003 & December 2003?

7. Which three countries would you be most likely to consider travelling to on holiday over the next 3 years (2004 û2006)?



The fears of racial discrimination against Arabs and those perceived to be Arabs are not without basis. A report released on May 22, 2003, by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) says that in the first nine weeks following the September 11 terrorist attacks, ADC documented over 700 violent incidents targeting Arab Americans, or those perceived to be Arab Americans. Reports of employment discrimination to ADC quadrupled compared to previous annual reports.

The full “Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans: The Post-September 11 Backlash” spans the period of September 11, 2001 to October 11, 2002, and it can be read, downloaded, and purchased at www.adc.org.

This definitive 150-page Report traces hate crimes and discrimination against the Arab-American community in the United States, or those perceived to be members of the community. It methodically surveys the very serious problem of bias and is intended as a permanent record of the community’s experience. It is also intended as a contribution to the literature on intolerance in general.

The report systematically outlines the major challenges facing Arab-Americans when dealing with other sectors of American society including individuals, corporations, news and entertainment, educational institutions, law enforcement and the government. It is divided into four sections which deal with legal issues, discrimination in education, media bias and defamation, and recognizing positive acts of support.

Says the report: “The ADC hopes that this Report will help us develop a truly tolerant America, free of hatred and prejudice.” Here is a slightly edited version of the Executive Summary:



Over 700 violent incidents targeting Arab Americans, or those perceived to be Arab Americans, Arabs and Muslims in the first nine weeks following the attacks, including several murders.

== 165 violent incidents from January 1-October 11, 2002, a significant increase over most years in the past decade.

== Over 80 cases of illegal and discriminatory removal of passengers from aircraft after boarding, but before take-off, based on the passenger’s perceived ethnicity.

== Over 800 cases of employment discrimination against Arab Americans, approximately a four-fold increase over previous annual rates.

== Numerous instances of denial of service, discriminatory service and housing discrimination.

== New discriminatory immigration policies

== Secret detentions, hearings and deportations.

== Alien registration based on national origin and ethnicity.

== “Voluntary interviews” of thousands of young Arab men.

== Monitoring of international students.

== Discriminatory visa screening procedures for young Arab men.

== Selective deportation of Middle Eastern “absconders.”

== Disturbing provisions of the USA Patriot Act

== Indefinite detention of foreign nationals without process or appeal.

== New search and surveillance powers with insufficient judicial review.

== Measures providing for guilt by association.

== Additional civil liberties concerns

== Eavesdropping on attorney-client communications.

== Military tribunals.

== Suspension of constitutional rights of U.S. citizens without due process or appeal.

== Domestic law enforcement spying on lawful political and religious activities.

== Seizure of assets without due process, especially from Muslim-American charities.

== “Operation TIPS” ù Terrorist Information and Prevention System, and other programs encouraging Americans to spy on each other.


== Arbitrary and abusive stops and detentions.

== Abuse of detainees.

== Racial profiling or stereotyping.


== Physical assaults, death threats, and overt ethnic and religious bigotry in schools and on college campuses.

== Harassment and bias against Arab-American and American-Muslim students by teachers and administrators.


== A campaign of vilification against Islam and the Prophet Mohammed by leaders of the evangelical Christian right, including Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham.

== Pervasive acceptance of hostile commentary against Arabs, Arab culture and Islam in mainstream media and publications.

== Increased use by the mainstream media of commentators whose main aim is to promote fear and hatred of Arab Americans, including Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes.

== Openly racist statements by members of Congress and other prominent persons.


== Statements defending the community by many prominent persons, including President Bush and Secretary Powell, and institutions, including both houses of Congress.

== Fundraising for backlash victims.

== Volunteer escorts, especially for hijab-wearing Muslim women.

== Public relations efforts promoting tolerance.


Arab Americans continue to suffer from increased levels of discrimination from their fellow citizens in many fields, while the government has shown a real commitment to uphold the law and punish offenders.

Arab Americans, especially immigrants from the Arab world, have been the principal focus of new government powers that restrict individual freedoms and protections, and infringe upon civil liberties.

Defamation against Arabs and Muslims, particularly attacks on Islam as a faith, has steadily increased in intensity and frequency during the entire period covered by this Report, laying the groundwork for potential future waves of hate crimes.

In spite of numerous expressions of support for the community from public figures and thousands of private citizens, Arab Americans remain exceptionally vulnerable to hate crimes, discrimination, extreme vilification by prominent persons, and derogations of civil rights and liberties.


Arab Americans should continue to work as closely as possible with the authorities and our fellow citizens to help ensure the security of our country while preserving civil rights and liberties.

The government should continue to rigorously prosecute those who commit illegal discrimination and hate crimes.

The government should avoid any new policies that discriminate on the basis of national origin, ethnicity or religious affiliation, especially in combination with other factors such as age and gender.

There is no place in the American legal system for secret detentions, evidence, hearings or deportations, or for indefinite detention without due process.

The fundamental human and constitutional rights of immigrants and foreign nationals in the United States should not be sacrificed, including the right to due process of law.

Law enforcement investigations should be restricted to persons or groups suspected of criminal activity, not those engaged in lawful political or religious activities, and should never be based on national origin, ethnicity or religious affiliation.

No form of racial profiling is ever acceptable or effective.

Extraordinary measures taken in response to a national security emergency should, by definition, be regarded as temporary and rescinded as soon as possible.

The government should make every effort to compile statistics on law enforcement stops and searches of Arab Americans, and security checks at airports.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) should work with the airline industry, pilots’ unions and Arab-American and Muslim groups to create guidelines for crews, including safeguards and recourses for passengers, in cases where concerns or actions based on perceived ethnicity are raised or taken following boarding.

National leaders, including the President, and mainstream Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, should forcefully denounce public figures who engage in vicious defamation against Arabs and Islam.

The media should not present hate speech as a legitimate contribution to the national conversation, or rely on commentators who routinely resort to racist stereotypes and smearing entire communities.

The entertainment industry should begin to feature positive and neutral Arab and Arab-American characters, and move away from stereotypical Arab villains which have long been used and have a negative impact.

Schools, colleges and universities should make every effort to ensure that their students have access to basic and accurate education on the fundamentals of Islam and Arab culture.

Arab Americans should redouble their efforts to build bridges with other communities, engage in civic life at all levels of American society, and empower themselves within the political system.



From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2003


John N. Paden and Peter W. Singer

Summary: Harsh new restrictions on Muslim visitors have told potential friends that the United States no longer wants them. Goodwill is being squandered; Americans will pay.

John N. Paden is Clarence Robinson Professor of International Studies at George Mason University. P.W. Singer is Olin Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and Coordinator of the Brookings Project on U.S. Policy Toward the Islamic World.

On January 28, Ejaz Haider — the editor of one of Pakistan’s most influential newspapers and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution — was stopped outside the Washington think tank by two armed, plainclothes officers from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Haider had originally been invited to the United States by the State Department for a conference on U.S.-Pakistan relations. Nonetheless, he was arrested, hustled into a car, driven to a detention center, and interrogated for hours. The charge: he had allegedly failed to properly register his presence in the country — something now required of visitors from many Muslim countries to the United States as part of a stringent set of immigration restrictions that have been imposed since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Haider’s arrest occurred despite the fact that he had been invited by the U.S. government, had already registered on his arrival, and indeed had been extensively interrogated when he first entered the country, some three months earlier. He had since done exactly as he was instructed by the INS’ own telephone help line.

High-ranking officials at the State Department quickly intervened, raising sharp protests with their colleagues at the INS, and Haider was released that night, dumped in suburban Washington, D.C., with little but a subway card in his pocket. Furious, the Pakistani journalist, who had been to the United States six times before, resolved that he would not return as long as such policies continue. “This is not the United States I used to come to,” he told The Washington Post.

In a sense, he was right. Whereas Haider’s plight received a high level of attention due to his stature, his treatment was hardly unique. On the contrary, it revealed a disturbing pattern that has emerged in the year and a half since America was first attacked by terrorists: the U.S. government has begun to impose highly restrictive regulations on visitors from Muslim lands, restrictions that have had the primary effect of telling men like Ejaz Haider — potential friends and supporters of the United States — that they are no longer wanted in the country. A huge source of goodwill is thus being squandered, at precisely the time when the United States needs it most.

The most painful irony of this new policy is that the United States’ openness to outsiders has long been the underpinning of the country’s economic and social fabric. Just as many U.S. corporations have gone global in recent years to great success, so too have American universities, drawing on the talents of the best and brightest from around the world. Roughly half of the students now receiving Ph.D.’s in the sciences at U.S. schools are foreigners. That may not last for long, however.

What Washington seems not to recognize is that these guests are important not just for the nearly $12 billion they pump into the U.S. economy each year. They also provide bridges of knowledge and understanding that greatly improve the strategic position of the United States in the world. …

(See the website http://www.foreignaffairs.org/current/ for the full report, which will have to be purchased).


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