(eTN) – While terrorism affects tourism and a lot has been discussed and spoken about it, there is a lack of clarity about tourism and its effects on terrorism. Over the past decade, acts of terrorism have taken place at tourist sites, as well as places where people have gathered in large numbers. Be it Bali, New York, Mumbai, or Madrid the repercussions have been felt the world over.
Over the past couple of years, a number of stringent security measures have ensured there is a general sense of calm all over most of the world. Tourism numbers have showed a steady increase with both long- and short-haul flights going chock-a-block on most routes. While people continue to travel for both leisure and business, there is no denying every journey has a moment of adventure, an extraordinary sense of movement and transformation at one point, whether that be for a business traveler, a tourist, or regular traveler. Hence, all forms of travel can be bracketed into some form of tourism. With a safer and more secure world, are we ensuring we will travel without having to encounter an act of terrorism? Is a steady number of arrivals and footfalls ensuring we are keeping terrorists at bay? Do growing economies ensure trouble makers stay away from fermenting trouble?
If one were to go by the events of India, there are statistics to suggest tourism is beginning to flourish in India with no less than 650 million domestic travelers having traveled in India last year. Tourist destinations have been peaceful and incident free. The largest gathering of pilgrims concluded peacefully at Rishikesh in early 2010 with more than 100 million visitors coming to the twin cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar for the sacred dip in the River Ganga. Some districts of India are sadly out of bounds for tourists because of a variety of reasons ranging from existential to mismanagement of local politics. By and large, the seventh largest country has been incident free and shown tenacity and wisdom, especially after the verdict on Ayodhaya in August 2010.
As proved by the above figures, tourism has flourished and kept trouble makers at bay. Besides bringing in numbers, tourism, when supported by strict security measures, paves the way for a trouble-free society, improving business, creating a spirit of goodwill, and above all ensuring the gains from travel are shared by one and all.
How does tourism dampen terrorism? For starters, we all begin to pull up our socks, become attentive, and are always calmed by the fact that the “big eye” is hovering around, keeping a silent watch. Terrorists are often deterred by eyeballs and cameras in search of suspicious movement. Secondly, when tourism becomes a movement in select destinations having heritage sites or landmark spots, it subconsciously becomes mandatory for locals to safeguard movement of tourist and tourist attractions. Terrorism, on the other hand, falls shy when locals begin to play role of caretakers and report insidious activities and unknown strangers.
Thirdly, due to extremely high interaction between locals and tourists, greater understanding of cultures takes place and diversity is often respected. Myths are dispelled and in many cases, cultures are embraced. This is another dissuading factor for terrorism. Tourism ensures there is no place for tomfoolery and tactics aimed at maiming people and destruction of places. This, again, acts as a dampener to terrorists. Finally, stricter security measures ensures trouble makers are denied access at gateway points, border controls, and at transit points, indirectly paving the way for unparalleled movement of travelers to destinations. Once considered safe, tourism in many ways directs growth of locations and renegades terrorist activities to a bare minimum.
To conclude, we must never underestimate the power of tourism in peace-building processes and keeping terrorism at bay. The world needs to give more importance to this industry, which plays various roles and is at the same time, a silent observer. The war on terror will never come to an end for a variety of reasons. It’s time to acknowledge tourism has propelled economies, brought a sense of calmness, and built a spirit of oneness. In all fairness, it must be rated as a new find of this century, particularly in India. Take a bow, safe tourism, you have arrived; we acknowledge your immense presence, the world over.