CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 1, 2016 – Not since the days of Ronald Reagan has travel to Europe been so affordable for Americans. But with the summer travel season on the horizon, there is a twist to this year’s once-in-a-lifetime dreams that did not exist in Mr. Reagan’s time.
The question is how much the threat of global terrorism, real or perceived, will have on the way Americans travel abroad this summer?
France, Spain and Italy have already been mentioned as potential terror sites for vacationers. In the case of France, the country has already been a target on two recent occasions that have resulted in mass casualties.
Italy is said to have been high on the ISIS wish list for quite a while, in large part because of the presence of the Vatican.
And Spain, which suffered a railway station attack several years ago, is another vulnerable spot thanks to the Costa del Sol and the carefree ambience of Mediterranean beaches.
A single well-timed attack could play havoc with the European economy just at a time when the dollar is matching up better with the euro than it has in decades. But even the suggestion that something horrible might be afoot could be all that is necessary to keep travelers at home.
On the other hand, there are also domestic considerations with the two major political conventions scheduled later in the summer. Philadelphia will host the Democratic National Convention in late July, while the GOP gathers in Cleveland about a week earlier.
Though neither city has been a previous target for terror, and though security will be at an all time high, something massive prior to either event, even in another major U.S. metropolis, could have a devastating effect on the psyche, as well as the economy, of the country.
In a sense, terror organizations have the best of both worlds because Americans have no way of knowing whether they will be safer at home or abroad. It all seems a bit surreal, much like the scene in Dirty Harry when Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan ays “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
Given the current exchange rate between the dollar and the euro, the summer of 2016 should be the best year to travel to Europe in years. That could change drastically however, even in the wake of a small but well-time, well-planned attack.
Europe has been through this before. Years ago, a defiant Muammar Qaddafi took his turn at creating economic havoc on the Continent and tourism suffered dramatically.
The only “real” certainty about the current situation is the “uncertainty” of it all.
As Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon pointed out in an article for the Countering Terrorism Sentinel, “The success of a terrorist group depends not just on its actual strength, but also on its opponents’ perceptions. This fear is stoked by a reckless media and by politicians who believe their electability hinges on pervasive public anxiety and are therefore determined to paint as dire a picture as possible. This stratagem is working, insofar as survey data show clearly that Americans, at least, feel they are under siege and at greater peril than any time since 9/11.”
“Perception” may be the key. Islamic jihadists may not, in fact, have to do anything other than threaten to do something. The mere idea that they are somewhere lurking in the shadows could be enough to obtain the desired results.
One thing is certain however. If the opportunity arises, the jihadists will jump at the chance. And once that happens, all bets will be off because perception will then become a reality while the economic and human tragedy again become victims to Western complacency.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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