Terrorism and tourism

Mutually exclusive

Preetam Rai reports from southern Thailand that the tourist industry there has been severely affected due to the recent upsurge in terrorism. He wonders when tourists will return to Yala and Narathiwat just north of the Isthmus of Kra.

Terrorist attacks certainly cause short-term damage to tourism. But in the medium- to long-term, whether tourism returns or not depends to a large extent on whether the local population unequivocally rejects terrorism. For instance, Bali has well-recovered from the debilitating attack on a Kuta beach bar which killed scores of tourists. The Balinese were never supporters of Islamic extremism; the beach bombing was the work of al Qaeda affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah, whose agenda could not very much impress even the Balinese Muslims.

Similarly, tourism has returned to Kashmir only after the local population began to tire of terrorism. The recent bombing of a tourist hotel in Pahalgam has been unpopular with the Kashmiri people. If this sentiment spreads across the valley, tourism may well displace terrorism in the Kashmir valley. It is here that elements like the Hurriyat let down the very people they claim to represent – they provide political oxygen to terrorists that checks the spread of their unpopularity.