Brussels attack: Terrorism is unlikely to deter tourists long-term

The Eiffel Tower-shaped bid logo for the Paris 2024 is unveiled on The Arc of Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.
The Eiffel Tower-shaped bid logo for the Paris 2024 is unveiled on The Arc of Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

On Nov. 15, two days after the deadly attacks in Paris by Muslim extremists, pro tennis player Andy Murray was asked whether he was concerned about an upcoming match in Brussels, a city that had its own security worries.

“I think everybody right now is concerned,” Murray said. “But I do think the best thing that we can do is to live our normal lives, not change too much, because then the terrorists are the ones that are winning.”

It appears that, for the most part, that’s exactly what many of us do.

READ MORE: Brussels attack: How the famous ‘Mannekin Pis’ statue has become a symbol of strength

Previous attacks have led to slowdowns in local economies, including in the Paris region last year. For example, the French capital saw a “super high” number of hotel cancellations, according to an Expedia executive.

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But the slumps prove largely transitory.

The French economy, in which Paris is the biggest anchor, is on the upswing this spring with growth expected to hit its fastest pace in five years by the middle of 2016, according to the country’s statistics agency Insee. Unemployment is falling for the first time in years as well.

Proof that many of us carry on in spite of the kind of senseless attacks witnessed on Tuesday in Belgium can be seen in things like airline share prices, travel companies and hotels.

READ MORE: Trudeau, world leaders condemn ‘deplorable’ Brussels attacks

Over the past five years, despite multiple terrorist intrusions, share prices in European airlines have actually outperformed the main European stock index, called the Stoxx Europe, by a decent margin.

Last December, a visitor could score a night at the posh, five-star Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe hotel for $288. That same room is now being booked at $791 a night.

“Tourists tend to forget really, really fast,” Denis Pétrin, the head of finance for Montreal-based Transat, said last fall.

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In fact according to Expedia, transatlantic travel from the United States to France has continued to rise strongly (thanks in part to the strengthening U.S. dollar). Bookings were up by more than a third last year, the travel website says.

A survey this year from Statistics Canada noted strong – and growing – transatlantic demand among Canadian travellers, as well.

“Holidays are becoming sacred, customers are saying ‘I work so hard – I really, really need to travel,” Pétrin said.

As for Andy Murray, a victory in Belgium last November has paved the way for a Davis Cup quarterfinal appearance versus Serbia in July.

“We need to go out there and do what we always do and try not to change too much. That’s all we can do,” Murray told the Associated Press ahead of the match last fall.

“I don’t want to live my life in fear each time I step on a tennis court. So that’s what I’ll do.”

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