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Global tourism under threat

Enemy with many faces: tight security surrounds Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as he visits the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, on Saturday. Malian security forces were hunting “more than three” suspects after a brazen assault on a luxury hotel in the capital that killed 19 people plus two assailants, an army commander said. Such assaults have made tourism safety everywhere a top priority(Photograph by Jerome Delay/AP)

It is a reality that cannot be ignored by tourism officials throughout the world, as vicious extremist groups including Isis, have openly declared war on all people who refuse to embrace their brand of ideology. It is an ideology that calls for the elimination of anyone who refuses to comply with objectives that deny common freedoms cherished by most.

Most of the world is in a state of bewilderment over how to handle a threat that grows by the hour, with terrorists desperately trying to expand despite suffering heavy losses. Leading nations are seeking ways to combine efforts in combating an enemy that has the capacity to melt into any society, posing as regular citizens until there is an opportunity to strike.

This scenario has altered the thinking of millions of people who are no longer comfortable in making travel arrangements, which they previously did without a second thought. Tourism thrives on people willing to have new experiences in other countries, but in today’s climate, with pockets of extremist groups lurking in the shadows in so many areas, including top tourist attractions, new concerns about safety have created more than a challenge for those who rely on tourism as a significant source of income.

Confidence in the travelling public has undoubtedly been shaken by recent deadly events in Paris, and new threats from extremist groups that New York, Washington and even Rome are places they aim to hit, although some observers view such claims as part of a fear campaign to keep the world on edge. However, security officials are right to take every threat seriously.

Major airlines, even cruise ship operators, are aware that safety issues are paramount with travellers. Massive coverage of any incident by the international press makes it clear that the Isis sympathiser could strike anywhere, and that is a problem for security services worldwide.

The bottom line is that world tourism could be affected in a negative way if people, out of fear, hold off on planned vacations as a result of what seems to be relentless attacks by terrorists groups without any concern about life.

Even more worrisome is how cyberspace is used to recruit the vulnerable to conduct evil acts of cold-blooded murder.

It should be noted that thousands of Muslims in the United States openly condemned what happened in Paris and emphasised that nothing in their faith condones such evil. Many

of them carried banners stating, “not in my name”.

In the civilised world, there are millions of peace-loving people, who do not wish to be dictated to by those committed to destroying rather than building better relationships.

In this new type of war, where the enemy has many faces, security forces have a huge task trying to keep the travelling public safe. In the Mali hotel attack over the weekend, terrorists used a vehicle with diplomatic status to penetrate the security area before opening fire.

When order was restored by antiterrorist forces, 19 people were killed, some of them guests. Another dark moment in the fight against terrorism.

The people of Paris came out in huge numbers a week after terrorists wreaked havoc in the city to prove no evil will stop or change their lives, and that evil will never triumph. It is not a matter of disregarding danger, but there are too many beautiful people anxious to visit beautiful places to allow extremists to hold them hostage at home.

Bermuda, along with other resorts, is gearing up for an increase in tourism business and officials, although optimistic, are mindful that our visitors come from several countries and that success could depend on how the world handles the existing threat to international peace and safety.

The threat level is high for a number countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Russia, as a more united approach is considered to halt the killing madness.

It will be a long road ahead in eliminating extremist groups, but, with good people willing to stand up for what is right, no matter the challenge, there will be renewed hope that the beauty of the Earth should be enjoyed by all in an atmosphere of true peace and freedom. That is the real goal worth fighting for.