TERROR AND TRAVEL: Terrorism Expands in Our Shrinking World; the Travel Industry Has Suffered in Recent Years as Tourists Have Become the Target for Terrorists. Travel Editor Paul Groves Looks Back at a Difficult Year and How the Industry Is Planning to Fight Back
Byline: Paul Groves
The world has become a smaller place as air travel has developed and the opportunities for us to visit new countries and regions has increased.
More of us are now heading off on our travels to increasingly far-flung places, while tourism has become the leading economic driver for many developing nations.
But the flipside of experiencing new cultures and broadening our horizons has been a growing realisation that our willingness to travel has also made us a target.
In recent years, popular resorts across the world have been targeted by all manner of terror groups, while tourists have unwittingly taken their place on the frontline.
As the world has shrunk, so our exposure to terrorism has apparently increased.
The issue became a central theme for the recent global gathering for the tourism industry, the annual World Travel Market in London.
The International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) arranged the third Global Summit on Peace through Tourism, based around the theme of "One Earth One Family: Travel and Tourism - Serving a Higher Purpose."
As ever with such initiatives, there is a danger that lofty pretensions take precedence over practical measures.
However, the summit successfully addressed key issues such as the role of tourism in advancing the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Many point to the second and most recent bomb attacks on Bali as perfectly encapsulating the issues affecting the industry and travellers in general.
Bali highlights the impact of global tourism and the inequalities it allows to prosper.
While not seeking to explain the mentality of such attacks or condone them, groups such as Tourism Concern point out that there are powerful political undercurrents in such countries which are often fuelled by the presence of tourists.
Indeed, Bali attracts more than a million foreign travellers each year and the majority of them will never know the reality of life for ordinary Balinese and the economic migrants who flock there from other poorer parts of predominantly Muslim Indonesia.
Tourism, therefore, is often regarded as merely a quick-fix to economic and social ills and in the long-term it generates far more problems than it solves.
As such, tourism can often be viewed as a new form of colonialism.
What the recent WTM attempted to kick-start was greater understanding of such issues and attitudes and to follow the path forged by those companies who have been at the forefront of so-called "responsible tourism" for many years.
Tourism remains the third largest global industry after oil and narcotics and employs hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
What the global industry is starting to understand is that the benefits have only been enjoyed by a few and there is a pressing need to spread the wealth and opportunities around.
Other attacks have taken closer to home and similar sentiments have been expressed.
So is the message to stay at home and not travel?
The answer should be en emphatic "no". But, of course, life is never that simple.
In the immediate aftermath of the suicide bomb attacks on tourists in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw advised British tourists to be vigilant in Turkey and Egypt but to travel as normal.
He also encouraged overseas authorities to remind international visitors that Britain was still open for business.
Mr Straw's advice came even though the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) maintained there remained a high risk of terrorism in Turkey and Egypt and that further attacks cannot be ruled out.
British tour operators, such as Discover Egypt, said British tourists were "showing resilience" in the wake of the bombings. But is this just another example of slightly misplaced "stiff upper lip" British resolve? …