What is the economic cost of terrorism?
Berlin’s major newspapers have run wall-to-wall coverage of terrorism.
It feels trivial to ask such a question after the recent attacks in Paris.
With airports around the world on higher alert, how do you feel about traveling overseas?
“The airport is a prestige object for each bomber” warned federal police spokesman last week at Frankfurt Airport, a major international hub that sees thousands of passengers a day.
As some of you know, I moved to Berlin from the US over the summer.
Military patrol Brussels airport, Nov. 18, (Dirk Waem – AFP)
The mood here is that Germany’s a little more insulated from these militant Islamist threats.
There isn’t the same anxiety that we could be subject to attacks like those suffered nearly two weeks ago in Paris.
Although, it’s inevitable that in the coming weeks questions will be raised about how to secure the borders more effectively and how to determine whether terrorists are using the influx of refugees to infiltrate Europe.
Berlin is the most American city in Europe. English seems like the local language. Many artists, particularly from North America are attracted to the city partly because it feels like home. Yet Berlin works better than any city in America. It’s got better public transportation and better services.
Chancellor Angela Merkel haspromised the Parisians that Germany would work together with France to fight against terrorism and declared, wir weinen mit Ihnen, “we cry with you”.
Though Germany’s present government reflects a strong aversion to fighting fire with fire, indicating its post-war experiences of economic growth, reunification and peace.
For many Germans, drinking mulled wine with family or colleagues at Christmas markets is a long-standing tradition. The country’s roughly 2,500 markets attract over 50 million visitors a year_ according to the Federal Association of Fairground Showmen and Market Traders. Berlin alone is home to some 60 seasonal markets. Since most are held on large, open spaces, have mazelike layouts and have no designated entry points, security can be particularly tricky. (photo: Alliance, DPA)
So most Europeans are going about their business, but the global tourism industry is rattled.
Tour operators cancelled package trips and some predicted a further slowdown in bookings as jittery travellers hold off on immediate plans or look to go elsewhere.
Some big-spending Chinese tourists are shunning
Paris for now and opting instead to visit Germany and other European cities.
The message from France is a plea for tourists to come back and show international fraternité to counteract terrorism and show solidarity for their way of life.
Yet, given events over the past month – the destruction of a plane full of Russian holidaymakers; the bombing in Beirut; the attacks in Paris; the 11-year-old girl used as a suicide bomber in Nigera, much will depend not only on local psychology but also on the willingness of visitors to set worries aside.
Still, this is the start of a traditionally significant Christmas season for Europe.
Pope Francis cast a gloomy light on the coming celebrations. “Christmas is coming. There will be lights, there will be parties, trees all lit up and nativity scenes,” he said. But it is “all a charade. The world continues to be at war.”
Among airlines operating regular flights to the French capital, security has been stepped up.
A spokesman for South Korea’s Asiana Airlines said last week, “On Sunday alone, we had 50 cancellations out of 300 bookings. Paris has always been a fully-loaded r
oute for us, but loading has dropped to 70-80% since the attacks.”
Several US airlines waived cancellation fees for those booked on flights to Paris in the coming weeks.
Paranoia Is Powerful
As travel author, Rick Steves, likes to point out: Europe is safer than the USA statistically.
America is well-known for random shootings, yet people from all over the world still visit the US.
Tourism is a major part of the economy. What would happen if the rest of the world held to an isolationist attitude? Would people even leave their homes?
Travel and exposure to other points of view are the only way to bridge the gaps in understanding the world’s problems.