The terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day celebrations last Thursday was shocking, the third mass casualty terrorist incident in 18 months in France. First the Charlie Hebdo, 12 dead; then the Bataclan concert hall attacks, 130 dead; and then Nice, 84 dead and 200 injured.
There have been many smaller and foiled incidents. The Washington Post has calculated that since January last year there have been 46 attacks and 658 deaths in Europe and the Americas. There have been 2,063 attacks in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with 28,031 dead. I have quoted these figures precisely because all of these lives matter, as do the tens of thousands injured in terrorist attacks and the impacts on the bereaved and injured. In recent days there have been major terrorist incidents in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad and Saudi Arabia as well as the daily death toll – many of which less spectacular attacks go largely unreported.
It is not surprising that we are affected more by those attacks which are closer to home, which affect relatives, friends, people-like-us and those attacks which target tourists. Attacks in tourist destinations, on tourists, are attacks on ‘people-like-us’ – as the terrorists intend the vast majority of us to be terrified and stay away. Our governments issue travel advisory warnings against all but essential travel to some countries, effectively closing down the industry in Tunisia, large parts of Egypt and elsewhere. Part of the strategy of the terrorists is to destabilise countries by disrupting their economies, creating unemployment and alienating larger parts of their population.
The increasing prominence of ‘lone wolf’ attacks makes it even harder for the security services to protect us, to frustrate and apprehend the terrorists and to prevent attacks. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, France came together and there was a sense of solidarity which stretched far beyond France. “Je suis Charlie” seemed to be everywhere.
Political strains were beginning to appear after the Paris attacks. At the memorial service for the Nice victims the head of government was booed and called a murderer. The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi accused the government of lying over the number of police officers protecting the Bastille Day crowd and complained that there were too few on duty. “The people today do not feel any sense of national unity,” he told Le Point magazine. “The government can’t get away with it now for the third time, with all the political forces rallying around.” Standing in solidarity with France, and other states which are victims of terrorism is important, and we must carry on trading.
In an increasingly globalised world with high levels of permanent, long and short term migration liberal values are strained. In a speech to the American Bar Association back in July 1985, delivered in the context of IRA violence in Britain, then prime minister Margaret Thatcher argued that “we must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend”. The Qilliam Foundation recognises the strength of this argument and continued relevance but points out that with a 24 hour news agenda and social media the denial of the oxygen of publicity is all but impossible.
Back in 2008 The UNWTO published the results of a study on tourism and migration that pointed to the contribution which both make to poverty alleviation through SME development, knowledge transfer, remittances, and how these could be increased by institutional changes to harness economic benefits and improve social rights and inclusion. The UNWTO reported that restrictions on immigration also restrict tourism development and pointed to the creation of new cultural products in developed countries.
The Migrantour initiative has developed tours for locals, domestic and international tourists in Turin, Valencia, Rome, Paris, Marseille, Florence, Milan, Genoa and Lisbon. These tours contribute to generating dialogue and understanding and to reducing alienation. Can tourism do more?
On the other hand in Mallorca people who live near the Arenal beach in Mallorca are demanding respect for their environment and rebelling against the drunkenness of international and domestic youth. The graffiti is interesting suggesting refugees are preferred to some forms of tourism.
Likewise in Berlin refugees from Syria and Iraq give Arabic language tours in Berlin’s museums. The tours allow refugees in Germany to remember their heritage and reflect upon their life in exile. And even more, they are helping newcomers integrate into their new community.
Last year, filmmakers Philip Brink and Marieke van der Velden invited tourists and refugees to talk with one another about life while sitting on a little bench overlooking the sea. The film is worth watching – a short documentary with conversations of war, fleeing, home, work, love, but also cars and pets.
It’s an ode to humanism and shows what happens when we take time to sit down and talk with each other, instead of about each other.
We’ll be looking at terrorism and migration in the session on Responsible Tourism and resilience at WTM London in November.