Paris, Wembley, Terrorism – Tourism on Tip Toes (19.11.15)
Londoners, and particularly English football fans, were able to show direct support for Parisians and the French people at Wembley on Tuesday night, just four days after the terrorist atrocities in Paris last Friday, which claimed 129 lives and injured so many more.
I attended the game along with friends and family, and was aware of how fortunate we were to be able to send a universal message of unity and support to France and the rest of the world.
It was humbling to hear the whole stadium join in La Marseillaise and witness the French fans so defiantly in full voice throughout the evening. Especially as the Germany v Netherlands match in Hanover, scheduled to take place at the same time, was cancelled due to ‘an intention to ignite explosives’.
These images, all of which I took at Wembley this week, show how well London managed to embrace the occasion. England fans held aloft a huge Tricolore mosaic at one end, as players and officials, dignitaries and the entire sell-out crowd were united in a minute’s silence. Wembley’s famous arch was lit in the blue, white and red colours of the French flag, and the words ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’ were emblazoned across the main entrance in memory of the victims in Paris only 72 hours before.
The increase in terrorist activities, which crosses all international boundaries, has had its impact on the tourism industry. In addition to the events in Paris (3rd most visited international city, after London and Bangkok) and since my blog posting questioning whether tourists should continue to visit Tunisia after the shooting of holiday-makers on the beach, lethal terrorist incidents have occurred in several other tourist destinations, including Egypt, Turkey and Jerusalem.
We have noticed a change in clients’ booking patterns, with less interest in the Middle East and regions of Africa, and more interest in South and Central America. I am sure it is no coincidence that destinations such as Peru, Cuba and Costa Rica are benefiting from a huge surge in tourist interest, while Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have suffered substantial drop-offs.
Tourism, which should be a force for good as differing cultures, creeds and colours entwine for everyone’s benefit, has seen a huge swelling generally in tourist numbers across the planet, and yet the total cessation of business in the most lawless of destinations. It certainly feels a long time ago that we at Nomadic Thoughts were promoting Syria, Libya and the Yemen as some of our favourite ‘new’ destinations.
Financially, tourism, which often pioneers a destination’s economic development, had had to take a more tip-toe approach. For example Easyjet has just announced that the airline is likely to lose £10m after the recent Sharm el Sheik crisis.
The tip-toe approach does, in times of crisis, appear to be the most appropriate. Instead of an all out halting in tourist numbers, the continuation of some tourist activity not only allows for local economies to benefit, but also shows a remarkably strong gesture of support. As long as tourism’s ‘boots on the ground’ are in evidence, Paris and indeed the French people will receive the highest support. With over 84 million annual visitors creating 10% of the country’s employment, 9% of French GDP relies on it.
So while we mourn the victims and offer heartfelt sympathy to their family and friends, it is heartening to see this photo of a group of excited young English boys at the Bobby Moore statue. Their attendance at the match, along with so many defiant French fans, sends out the most powerful of ‘carry-on-as-normal’ messages.