UTRECHT, The Netherlands, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) — The Syrian conflict, terrorism, refugees and the rise of populism are seriously affecting the tourism map in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, an expert with the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) said here Tuesday.
"The conflict in Syria which has resulted in a massive influx of refugees, the threat of terrorist attacks and also the rise of nationalism and populism in the West are seriously affecting tourism flows in Europe," ETFI researcher Peter Singleton told delegates on the first day of a two-day tourism fair held in the Dutch town of Utrecht.
Countries enjoying geopolitical stability saw their tourist flows increase last year, while others experienced significant losses despite a 4 percent growth in world tourism, according to the researcher, who's also a lecturer at the Stenden University of Applied Sciences.
"Tourism flows change rapidly depending on what is happening on the geopolitical context," Singleton noted.
Citing Turkey as an example, he said that the country saw a 30 percent drop in tourist arrivals last year because of terror attacks in Istanbul and the instability caused by the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
"Geopolitical stability is of crucial importance to tourism," Singleton stressed, estimating last year's trends are likely to remain in 2017.
According to Singleton, in terms of tourism arrivals, Tunisia and Egypt, among the losers of geopolitical conflicts and instabilities, saw a drop of 95 percent and 68 percent in 2016 respectively.
France, impacted by terror attacks on its popular destinations like Paris and Nice, suffered a drop of 3 percent, while Greece grappling with a refugee influx on certain popular tourist islands saw a 26 percent decline.
Travellers moved towards calmer places like Spain and Portugal. The Iberian Peninsula countries turned into thriving tourist destinations as they saw an increase of 30 percent and 13 percent respectively in tourist arrivals last year.
Other European destinations like Slovenia and Iceland also registered significant growth for their tourism industry, according to the expert.
Singleton warned meanwhile that populism's gains in Western Europe is raising questions over whether a new threat to stability is on the rise.
"The rise of populism undermines social cohesion, threatening the region's stability," he said, "This will in turn affect tourism flaws within Europe and weigh on certain countries' travel attraction."