Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

23 Jan, 2006

“War on Terror” Scaring Britons Off Foreign Travel, Poll Shows

If fear of terrorism is impacting on where and how people choose to travel, the publicity surrounding the so-called “war on terror” is also exacting a toll, according to a number of global public opinion surveys.

Publicity about other safety fears like health scares and natural disasters is worsening the situation, with a growing perception that 2006 is likely to be not a very peaceful year.

A survey by the call-centre staff of Hoseasons, a self-catering specialist in the UK, shows that just 11% of Britons are planning holidays outside of Europe in 2006, with a combination of concerns about security, long journeys and fears of natural disasters persuading them to stay in Europe.

In response to a series of questions about Britons’ holiday plans for 2006, the survey found that 36% would stay in the UK and a further 36% are planning to stay in Europe.

The reasons given for avoiding long-haul holidays were: Security/terrorism issues: 56%; Length of journey: 50%; Potential for natural events (e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, etc): 16%; Language spoken at destination: 14%.

Another report released at the United Nations last week indicated that the “war on terror”, designed supposedly to make the world a safer place, is in fact having the opposite impact as it is being used by many governments to crack down on minorities in their countries.

The State of the World’s Minorities report was compiled for the first time by NGO Minority Rights Group International, with the help of various UN units.

Although many national tourism organisations feature their minority populations as being cultural assets, Juan Mendez, a Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General wrote in the report “Many governments in both the South and the North persist in labelling some people a threat simply because they are members of a minority.”

The report details how states in every world region repress the rights of their minorities, or even deny their existence, and finds that in three quarters of the world’s armed conflicts violence was targeted at specific religious or ethnic groups.

Methods pursued in the “war on terror” have also proven a threat to the rights and freedoms of Muslim minorities in Europe, in the most extreme case in Chechnya but also in Western Europe.

In the UK a package of proposed anti-terror laws have been accused by some civil society groups of enhancing Islamophobia within ‘mainstream’ British society, the report said.

The World Economic Forum which convenes annually in Davos, Switzerland, has been posing questions about global safety issues in its pre-conference surveys since 2003.

The two-part opinion surveys include 1) a “Voice of the People” survey covering 50,000 people in over 60 countries and 2) a “Voice of the Industry Leaders” survey which quizzes the roughly 2,500 leaders from business, politics and civil society expected at the WEF.

In this year’s “People” survey, released just before the WEF’s annual meeting this week, the WEF found that mixed opinions about whether the next generation will live in a safer world – 35% felt the world would either be a lot or a little safer while 30% felt it would be a lot or a little less safe.

The results need to be carefully analysed by global travel & tourism leaders who claim to be part of an “industry of peace” but seem to be doing little to walk the talk.

Regionally, Western Europe was the most pessimistic region with 67% of respondents in this region feeling the next generation would be either a lot less safe or a little less safe while only 11% felt the world would be a lot or a little safer.

The Americas were the next most pessimistic region — 54% felt the world would be a less safe place, while only 19% felt it would be safer.

In the Middle East, an area that has seen many conflicts, 24% of those interviewed felt it would be safer, compared with one in three (30%) who felt the opposite.

Interviews were conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, 77% felt the next generation would live in a safer world, while in Iraq this view was held by six in every ten (61%) interviewed.

Respondents were asked if they thought 2006 would be a peaceful year more or less free of international disputes, a troubled year with much international discord, or remain the same.

Globally, 30% of respondents felt 2006 would be a troubled year, 44% felt it would be much the same as 2005 and only 20% felt that 2006 would be a peaceful year.

Again, the Americas (including North, Central and South) was the most pessimistic region regarding international prospects with 42% thinking that 2006 will be a troubled year. In the USA, 47% felt that 2006 would be a troubled year on the international front while only 11% felt it would be peaceful.

Western Europe was the next most pessimistic region with 39% projecting 2006 as a troubled year and only 10% thinking the opposite. UK citizens were amongst the most pessimistic – 46% felt 2006 would be a troubled one, as did majorities in Switzerland (55%), Denmark (55%), and Luxembourg (50%).

The same set of questions posed to business, political and civil society leaders found that while 65% felt it would be a “lot more” or a “little more prosperous” world for future generations, 55% indicated that the world would be “a little less safe” or “a lot less safe”.

Only 21% felt the world would be safer.

Comments are closed.