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Report: 'Arab Spring' Broke Tourism to Region

The “Arab Spring” has led to an investor exodus and a drop in tourism as fears of terrorism send tourists to other destinations.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 7/13/2011, 12:05 PM / Last Update: 7/13/2011, 12:10 PM

The “Arab Spring” has led to an investor exodus and a drop in tourism as fears of terrorism send tourists to other destinations.

At least one travel operator, Thomas Cook, issued a profits warning this month. Both the agency and its rival, Tui, saw a drop in the price of their shares as a result of diminished reservations.

Thomas Cook on Tuesday blamed fear among French tourists as the main reason for the drop in their perennial visits to Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. The agency also said weak consumer spending in the UK had contributed to the economic standstill.

“The main reasons for this shortfall are the higher than previously forecast impact on the ongoing political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), particularly on our French operations, and the performance of our UK business in the face of difficult trading conditions,” the agency said in a statement.

Things are, as the agency points out, still pretty unstable in the region.

Libya is wracked by civil war, as are Syria and Yemen

Tunisia's transitional government had to put off its national elections till October, originally scheduled for this month, due to massive unrest. Protests followed simply because the new Interior Minister was honest enough to express the concern that an Islamist party might sweep elections and institute a Sharia (Islamic law)-controlled government instead. The first act of its new commission of political reform was to ban ties with the State of Israel.

The revolution that toppled the 31-year reign of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February has not left Tahrir Square: thousands of protesters continued to demonstrate Wednesday in the iconic center of Cairo for a sixth day, and there appears to be no sign of a resolution to the crisis any time soon.

In general, reported Financial Times' emerging markets editor Stefan Wagstyl in his "beyondbrics" blog, the entire travel sector has been affected by the upheavals that have struck the region. Thomas Cook shares dropped 29 percent, for instance, and Tui shares by 9 percent. Wagstyle called it “a perfect example of EM (Emerging Market) political risk hitting a developed market company.”