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Nowhere is safe so keep travelling – UN tourism chief

August 29, 2016 Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The best way to respond to terrorists is to continue visiting the countries they attack.

That’s the opinion of the secretary-general of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai. It conflicts with the stance of many Western governments, which issue advice to their citizens based on the incidence and perceived risk of terrorist attack.

In an interview with Spanish journalist Elena Sevillano published on World Tourism, Rifai spoke about safety and terrorism.

Rifai cited Vietnam, Cambodia and Croatia as examples of countries that had come through war to prosper through tourism.

Rifai said that no country was completely safe. “Anything can happen anywhere. They can kill or rob you on the streets of the safest cities in the world. It should not be something that prevents destinations from promoting themselves.”

The interviewer then pointed out that tourists make their own decisions – and they tend to avoid countries they consider dangerous.

“That is why we must ask them to please not make that classification,” Rifai replied. “Because today security is no longer something you can guarantee.”

Rifai praised the recent decision by Turkey to re-open Atatürk Airport in Istanbul just eight hours after a terrorist attack in June. “It was an excellent example. If you compare it to other incidents, airports were closed for days, weeks. That’s a good way to respond to terrorists. You want to hurt us? You will not succeed. We are operational in less than 24 hours. Determination and political will are key.”

Rifai’s plea: “To countries I say: Please do not rush to issue advisories against tourism. Let’s not fall into that trap.”

The interview with Rifai can be read here.

Most governments, however, consider they have a duty to protect their citizens, and that duty clashes with Rifai’s advice.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) regards some countries as so dangerous that it advises Australians to avoid them altogether. Other Western countries, including the US, Canada, Britain and New Zealand, issue similar advice. Travel agents are advised to alert clients to the risk of visiting such destinations.

DFAT currently advises Australians not to visit the following countries, on safety grounds: Mali, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Niger, Libya, Syria, Burundi, Somalia, Chad, Burundi.

DFAT advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to the following countries: Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Mauritania, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Guinea, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso.

Almost all countries on those lists, with the glaring exception of Venezuela, are located in the Middle East or Africa. DFAT does not place European countries which have suffered recent terrorist attacks, such as Belgium and France, in same categories. Turkey is not included in the two most severe lists either.

Written by Peter Needham

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