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Tourism and international relationships

Much of the world today is pondering whether the days of glowing tourism, with thousands travelling by air and sea to experience various cultures, and to enjoy meeting people from other lands will ever return.

The reason for concern for tourism officials worldwide, and that includes Bermuda, is that in recent years tensions and even violent conflicts in some countries have hurt an industry that not only evolved into a major economic venture that benefited the traveller and those hosting guests from around the world, but also played a part in fostering international relationships, which helped in trying to make the world a better place.

Floodwater surrounds storm-damaged homes as residents in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, try to recover from the effects of Hurricane Ida (Photograph by Steve Helber/AP)

One need not be an expert on the global tourism industry to know that tourism has suffered heavy losses as a result of acts of terrorism in its various forms. Then along came the pandemic, striking the world with such a devastating blow that it crippled the economy in many countries, leaving a trail of victims in the millions with no clear picture of how or when this deadly virus will be brought under control.

As if that was not bad enough, most scientists have concluded that the effects of climate change, causing massive hurricanes and wildfires on a scale never seen before, are affecting us far more immediately than first feared. Proof of that was with the recent Hurricane Ida, which even exceeded predictions by weather experts as a monster storm capable of severe damage. In a world where cameras capture just about every event, the world saw damage in the aftermath in several American states, which resembled a bombing raid with many homes wiped away and more than one hundred dead.

It was more than shocking and a reminder that we are in a world where change has brought about new challenges in many areas of normal life.

Bermuda in its unique position in the Atlantic Ocean, with a history of having a successful tourist industry mainly attracting visitors from the United States and other countries, will be wary of anything happening in America that may create a situation where many would-be travellers decide to remain at home, as that nation finds itself in a state of political divisiveness that could explode any moment.

Tourism is a two-way street, and there are people hesitating to visit a country with many beautiful people and attractions. Travellers from any country are sensitive to feeling safe wherever they go.

The September 11 tragedy 20 years ago, when terrorists took control of passenger jets and used them as weapons to topple the twin towers in Manhattan with heavy loss of life that included Bermudians, was a turning point in a world that accepted terrorism as a threat to all nations that believe in democracy as a system for freedom and justice for all.

No longer can anything be taken for granted. Even in that scenario, if the world is to move forward, tourism must remain positive because closing and locking doors Is surrendering to those who want to rule by brute force, with their chief weapon being the gun.

Tourism helps to keep the international travelling family together. However, people should not be blamed for staying put when they feel unsafe at some destinations. The United States has always been a very popular tourist destination for travellers around the world including Bermuda. But, after January 6 when a massive mob tried to take over the Capitol building in Washington to prevent Joe Biden from being sworn in as the new president after Donald Trump was soundly defeated at the polls, a mood change In the nation occurred.

Several people lost their lives in what was a clear attempt to end democracy in America. The grim reality that extremist groups raising the flag of the Confederacy are still intent on carrying out violent acts to return the nation to White rule only, which makes most travellers uncomfortable about visiting the nation.

People are hoping another rally by extremists planned for September 18 will not be allowed to escalate into anything resembling what happened on January 6. That would be a shame. Only a few days ago, a man was taken into custody for travelling in Washington with a bayonet and machete, and admitted to police that he was a supporter of extremism.

Not good for tourism.

Bermuda earned a reputation over the years as not only one of the most beautiful islands on the planet, but as having very friendly people. All this took place as our island struggled through the dark period of racial segregation. In fact, Bermuda was so popular that in many outstanding films, actors lamented how a Bermuda holiday was the thing to do.

Tourism officials and most Bermudians would want people to still feel that way about Bermuda. Tourism is certainly a key part of our history, and many friendships with visitors remained intact many years after they left the island.

Tourism will always be the key in promoting international relationships. Rebuilding our tourist industry will take time, but success will come to Bermuda if we work together and stay positive.

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Published September 18, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated September 17, 2021 at 5:46 pm)

Tourism and international relationships

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