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Europe

In Europe, tourism experts foresee a post-Paris rebound

Some have speculated that fear of terror attacks might have a significant lasting impact on Europe's tourism sector after recent events in Paris and Brussels. That's not likely, according to experts who spoke with DW.

Travel and leisure stocks tumbled following the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, leading some to wonder what impact that might have on the tourism sector in Europe as a whole.

Major destinations in Europe appear to be seeing a decline in visitors. Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) trade organization, told DW that he estimated that cities like Paris and London had seen a roughly 10-20 percent drop in bookings as fears over another attack in Europe - spurred not only by the events in France November 13 but also by a bomb scare in Hanover and the ongoing lockdown in Brussels - drive potential visitors away.

"This is entirely expected," Jenkins said. Though he emphasized that it was still too early to say exactly how the tourism industry would be affected down the line, he said the market had proved resilient following similar incidents in the past.

For example, Jenkins said, tourism in Europe rebounded fairly strongly after the London and Madrid bombings in 2005 and 2004, respectively.

"People are getting less susceptible to the terrorists associated with (these attacks)," Jenkins said. "It's not people being accustomed to outrage. What they're becoming better at is measuring the nature of the threat."

"The customers are getting smarter," Jenkins said.

A 'resilient industry'

Other tourism specialists who spoke to DW shared Jenkins' cautious optimism, saying that, though the industry might be hurt in the short term, it would likely recover fairly quickly.

Brussels

Even a lockdown in Brussels this week has not kept tourists off the streets completely

Graham Miller, head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey in the UK, also mentioned the industry's response to the London and Madrid bombings, saying that "there was barely any noticeable impact" on tourism in Europe during those years.

"Tourism has shown itself to be an incredibly resilient industry," Miller said.

Miller said tourism would likely recover from any short-term reduction following the attacks in Paris and lockdown in Brussels, too, assuming that they were "one-off events."

"You will see things return to normal fairly quickly," Miller said. "In a way these things are just part of our normal life."

Miller said the tourism industry in Europe had stayed strong in the wake of numerous kinds of disasters, be they of the natural or man-made variety. Indeed, the European branch of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a Madrid-based UN agency, released a report showing that international tourist arrivals to Europe had grown by 4.3 per cent in 2014, even as some countries continued to recover from the fallout of the 2009 financial meltdown.

Sandra Carvao, UNWTO's communications chief, also said it was too early to say for sure what the impact of recent events would be on Europe's tourism sector. However, she seemed doubtful that it would be long-lasting.

"This kind of situation tends to be very short lived," she said, noting that only on three occasions - following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the economic collapse in 2009 - did international tourism take a significant dive.

No end to the European 'wanderlust'

One important factor is that the majority of people traveling through Europe as tourists actually come from Europe, Carvao said. According to her, only 20 percent of tourists come from abroad. This means that Europeans, familiar with the region, know which locations to steer clear of following an incident such as the one in Paris.

Belgien Sicherheitsmaßnahmen in Brüssel

The near future will likely see a dip in visitors

In the meantime, Europeans have become less fazed by terrorist acts. "If you look at Europe, we've got a long tradition of dealing with this kind of incident," Miller said. "You don't get the knee-jerk panic that you do in other parts of the world."

Unsurprisingly, then, Germans aren't expected to halt their travel plans this holiday season, even after a bomb scare in Hanover earlier this month that led to several evacuations and the cancellation of a football match.

Sarah Lopau, chief spokesperson for the German Tourism Association, said terror threats would hardly damper Germans' "wanderlust."

"The traveler simply switches to another destination that is not affected," Lopau told DW in an email, noting that "negative tourism impacts are temporarily and regionally noticeable in the affected destination."

Jenkins, the CEO of ETOA, also said Europeans' response to the threat would prove the most important factor in the long-term effect on tourism. Though terror attacks themselves were not enough to deter tourists from visiting Europe, he said, an overreaction by a European government certainly would be.

For that reason, he said, it's important that life go on as normal.

"It's really important for Europe to be perceived as a safe destination, because it is a safe destination," he said. "But that perception has to start at home."

"We have a moral obligation to go and enjoy ourselves," he said.

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