Sir Richard Branson: More travel, not less, is the best way to defeat terrorism

 

What a wonderful reaction from marathon runners, supporters, businesses, charities, government and people all over the world in supporting those affected by the Boston bombings. As well as showing support for victims, getting on with life is the best way to show terrorists they will not win.

Thomas L Friedman wrote eloquently in The New York Times why we should not let terrorist acts change our way of life: "We do know now, after 9/11, after all the terrorism the world has seen in the last decade, what the right reaction is: wash the sidewalk, wipe away the blood, and let whoever did it know that while they have sickeningly maimed and killed some of our brothers and sisters, they have left no trace on our society. Terrorists are not strong enough to do that – only we can do that to ourselves – and we must never accommodate them."

I wholeheartedly agree, and this is why travel advisories stopping people visiting countries due to terrorist attacks should be banned. The reason for this is that they are exactly what the terrorists want.

Terrorists put bombs in a Bali nightclub – then for the next 10 years Bali's economy has been ruined because travel advisories stop tourists from travelling there. Australians, who comprise the most important market for this corner of South-east Asia, are urged to "exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including Bali, at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack".

Terrorists carried out a kidnapping in Kenya – and the US Department of State, by including the word "warning" in their travel advisory, has effectively negated all insurance, devastating industries from tourism to film (and even contributed to making it uneconomical for Virgin Atlantic to continue flying there).

Anyone considering a trip to Egypt who consults the Foreign Office Facebook page is told: "There is a high threat from terrorism. Although security is tight, especially in resort areas, there remains a high risk of attacks which could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by foreigners." Yet during all the upheavals of the past two years, tourists have been virtually unaffected.

Conversely, if a terrorist attack happens in the US or the UK, governments and people show 100 per cent support and sympathy – as they rightly should. After 9/11, we immediately sent a plane of people over to help, and made an extra special effort to encourage people to travel to New York. After 7/7, visitors to London continued to flock in. It is also important to support the small businesses in Boston, that were closed during the manhunt, as they try to recover.

From now on, the right thing is for every country to not put out advisories against nations that suffer terrorist attacks, but instead continue to aid them, through tourism and trade. Help people when they are most in need of support.

 

Sir Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group and president of Virgin Atlantic. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, available at virgin.com/richard-branson

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