European tourists, many of whom favor exotic vacation spots such as Turkey and other Middle East destinations, will have to rethink their itineraries this summer. One that promises to be particularly hot, though we are not talking about the sort of heat your regular tourists seeks out.
With numerous demonstrations taking place in Istanbul and other cities throughout Turkey as protesters continue to clash with riot police using water cannons and tear gas to dispel the crowds and with no apparent sign of these demonstrations abating it is unlikely that many tourists would want to venture into such an environment for their summer holidays.
Nor would there be many Europeans or North Americans willing to venture into even more precarious zones in the Middle East as the civil war in Syria appears to be escalating and quite likely to drag other countries into the quagmire. The images of violence that appears day after day on our television screens coming from Syria should be enough to convince many Europeans vacationers to remain within the safer confines of the European Union, or to look for other destinations where they would be guaranteed, to the extent that is possible anymore today, a quieter time.
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Unless of course they are part of the increasing numbers of Sunni Muslims –Europeans and others-- heading to the Middle East to engage in holy Jihad and help defend their coreligionists in Syria.
Indeed, the Middle East is about to face another heated summer as both sides in the Syrian conflict continue to stand by their positions and are settling in for the long-haul. The summit meetings between the US president and his Russian counterpart held in Northern Ireland on the margins of the G8 summit meeting has failed to yield any positive results so far.
Rather, each side seems to be holding his ground and backing his side. Russian President Vladimir Putin is standing firm by Syrian President Bashar Assad and along with Iran, remains one of the few foreign leaders to support the regime in Damascus. The other major Syrian ally is the Lebanese Shiite movement, Hezbollah.
And Pres. Obama and his European allies have agreed to supply weapons to the opposition.
For a number of countries in the region where the economy depends largely on revenues from the tourist trade, this will spell disaster. Primarily among them are Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey.
The latest developments in Egypt, including the call by several Muslim religious personalities for Muslims to go fight in Syria alongside their fellow Sunnis is not about to encourage droves of European tourists to the land of the pyramids. From the big chain hotels to the local restaurants and the very small business entrepreneurs who earn their living renting out horses and camels rides to tourists near the pyramids of Giza, in Cairo, the absence of those visitors will hurt financially.
Similarly, for the hundreds of Lebanese establishments that traditionally cater to tourists from the oil-producing Gulf countries this will be a particularly hard year, the second year in a row that the Gulf countries have advised their citizens to stay away.
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The crisis will have a snowball effect, gathering momentum and increasing in scope as the conflict continues. The absence of tourists and the millions of dollars they spend in Lebanon is only one aspect of the situation. The other negative result as a spill-over of the current conflict is likely to have a longer effect on the economy in Lebanon as Lebanese Shiites will find it harder and harder to obtain visas and work permits in many of the Gulf countries as the schism between Shiites and Sunnis begins to widen.
No doubt the participation of Lebanese the Shiite militia, Hezbollah, in the Syrian conflict is going to carry negative repercussions on the community.
With several tens of thousands of additional Europeans hitting the roads throughout the European Union this summer, what kind of effects is this likely to have on the price of oil at the pump?
Hang onto to your wallets, if you’re traveling to Europe this summer you will find out soon enough.
By. Claude Salhani
Claude Salhani is a political analyst and editor of ArabSpringNow.com. He tweets @claudesalhani