Skift Take

Large-scale conflicts can damage tourism beyond the borders where fighting is occurring. Here's a look at the wider impact of war on tourism throughout the world.

Major conflicts in recent years, most notably in Israel and Ukraine, have significantly impacted travel worldwide, another hurdle for the industry in its quest to make a complete recovery from the pandemic.

So how do wars affect tourism? We put the question to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot. It provided answers using information from our past news coverage and research, and we also conducted additional reporting.

What Ask Skift Said About Wars and Tourism:

Wars can have a significant impact on tourism. For example, the attack by Hamas in Israel in October 2023 resulted in a complete halt of its tourism sector, as it created instability and danger for tourists in the area. This can affect travel plans, operations of travel businesses, and even tourism promotion strategies, similar to the impact of natural disasters on tourism.

The war in Ukraine also had implications for European tourism. Although initial demand for travel to Europe held steady, a prolonged conflict could have devastating effects on Europe’s tourism recovery. This war threatened trust and confidence in traveling to Europe, especially to Eastern European destinations, and caused setbacks in the recovery of European tourism.

Therefore, wars can lead to tourism shutdowns, disrupt travel plans, and lead to significant losses for businesses in the tourism sector. Furthermore, they can also lead to long-term impacts on the image and perception of a destination, deterring future tourism.

What Else You Need to Know

The impact of Hamas’ attack has extended well beyond the borders of Israel, which saw a steep drop in tourists in October, as an increasing number of travelers have either postponed or cancelled trips to the Middle East. Washington, D.C.-based booking platform @Hotel said it’s seen a 70% drop in new bookings in the region.

Egypt is one Middle East destination that’s been hit hard by cancellations. Cairo-based destination management company Great Wonders of Egypt said more than half of its American travelers have canceled their trips scheduled for November and December.

Meanwhile, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, expressed concern the war could reduce the number of visitors from Israel. Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, raised similar concerns and Air India has suspended flights to Tel Aviv until November 30 while Israel’s El Al Airlines has indefinitely stopped service to Mumbai and Delhi.  

Tourism in Ethiopia, just like in Israel and Ukraine, has also been battered by war in recent years. Skift reported in January 2023 that Western governments discouraged travel to Ethiopia due to the ongoing civil war, which also drove several tour operators not to conduct trips in the country. Ethiopia’s Tourism State Minister Sileshi Girma said its tourism industry lost $2 billion due to the war and the pandemic.

War can also complicate tourism marketing messages. Polish tourism officials admitted in a March 2022 Skift article they had to tread carefully while promoting their country. While Polish authorities sought to reassure travelers that Poland was a safe destination, one official admitted that predicting the following two months prior to that summer would be challenging.

“We are taking safety very seriously and this is the first thing we have to be clear, if it is safe to invite travelers to Poland,” said Magdalena Zelazowska, director of the Polish Tourism Organization’s New York office.   


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Tags: ask skift, israel, Israel tourism, Ukraine War

Photo credit: Tourism to Ukraine has been decimated by the ongoing war manhhai / Flickr

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