Sri Lanka scores as South African tourists begin avoiding terror attack countries

Travel to Belgium‚ France‚ Tunisia and Turkey declined in the first six months of the year following terror attacks in these countries‚ according to statistics from Flight Centre Travel Group.

Flight Centre ticket sales indicate that travel to Belgium – the target of three co-ordinated terror attacks in March in which 32 people were killed – between January and July this year is down 16% compared to the same period last year.

Travel to France is down 29%‚ for the first six months of the year. France has been hit by a wave of terror attacks‚ with the latest taking place on 14 July 2016 when 84 people were massacred in Nice on Bastille Day. Travel to Paris‚ the scene of a deadly attack in November last year in which 130 people were killed‚ is also down 26%‚

Travel to Tunisia – where a lone gunman opened fire on a beach resort last June‚ killing 38 people is down 28% while Turkey‚ the target of several attacks this year‚ has been hardest-hit‚ with visits to the country down by half.

“South Africans are incredibly resilient travellers‚ but they are showing signs of being deterred by the terror attacks we have witnessed in Europe and North Africa over the last year‚” says Flight Centre’s Air Leader‚ Karin Smit.

She says travellers appeared to be resorting to safe havens like Sri Lanka which has recorded growth of 93%.

Travel to South African staples‚ Thailand and Mauritius‚ is also steady.

Smit says that while the economic slowdown and the weak rand have contributed to the decline in travel to destinations that had been the target of terror attacks‚ the assaults have no doubt had an impact.

“The attacks appear to unfortunately be reinforcing negative perceptions among South Africans. The weak rand and South Africa’s poorly performing economy are not helping‚ but the cherry on top for many travellers appears to be the terror attacks‚ especially those which have targeted tourists‚ such as the attacks on Istanbul Airport in Turkey‚ Brussels Airport in Belgium and the assault on Sousse beach in Tunisia.

“South Africans are travelling to these countries in fewer numbers. We will have to wait to see the long-term impact of these attacks on travel by South Africans‚” says Smit.

“However‚ one’s loss is always another’s gain.

“Sri Lanka is experiencing considerable growth‚ other Asian destinations such as Bali and Vietnam are also recording increases‚ as is Zanzibar‚ while there is always interest in Thailand and Mauritius.

“Local tourism is recording favourable growth with many South Africans choosing to stay closer to home‚” adds Smit.

Flight Centre Travel Group is South Africa’s largest travel company with more than R5-billion in sales recorded last year.

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