Why Do Tourists Vacation In War Zones?
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Why Do Tourists Vacation In War Zones?


In August 2016, a minibus of foreign tourists
was attacked in Afghanistan, injuring at least seven people. Terror attacks are not uncommon in Afghanistan,
but the incident nonetheless made headlines as most of the victims were tourists in what
is ostensibly a war zone. According to its government, Afghanistan sees
roughly 20 thousand tourists a year. So, why do people vacation in war-torn countries? Well, although wars affect all aspects of
a country’s economy, tourism is one of the fastest, and most likely to suffer. But war zones often do still see tourism from
more adventurous travelers, ranging from those who actively seek out military activity, to
others who are willing to brave the risk to see landmark locations. One such surprising location is Iraq, to which
the U.S. State Department has warned against all travel for fear of kidnapping and terrorist
violence. And yet, in 2013 reportedly more than 800,000
international tourists visited the country. Travelers to Iraq are generally attracted
to the country’s ancient historical sites, including the remains of Babylon, the Great
Mosque of Samarra and an Ottoman fortress called Tal Afar. Particularly popular among tourists is Iraqi
Kurdistan, which is a semi-autonomous region in the northeast with a majority Kurdish population. Iraqi Kurdistan is touted by guidebooks as
the best place to travel in Iraq, as it issues free tourist visas for citizens of most countries,
and sees considerably less violence and domestic dissent. However since the Islamic State began taking
over large swaths of Iraq in 2014, tourism has dropped dramatically. Another war torn country with a surprising
amount of tourism is Nigeria. Since 2009, Nigeria has been terrorized by
Boko Haram, a jihadist group operating mostly in the rural northeast. According to the Council on Foreign Relations,
Boko Haram was responsible for nearly 11 thousand civilian deaths in 2015, more than any terror
group in the world. Nigeria has one of the fastest growing cities
in the world, and is also home to stunning natural attractions like waterfalls, rainforests
and exotic animals. Even Syria, which in the last few years has
become the most dangerous place on the planet, has some vestige of tourism. Historically, Syria has been one of the most
popular tourists destinations in the middle east, as the country is home to six UNESCO
world heritage sites. But shortly after the country descended into
civil war, commercial flights were ceased, and most hotels either closed or were repurposed
as shelter for civilians. However this has not discouraged some tourists,
who have reportedly flocked to Syria’s shared border with Turkey and Israel to observe the
turmoil from afar. In late 2015, One Russian tour company even
announced plans to send tourists to the front lines, trademarking the name ‘Assad Tour’. There’s no doubt that war discourages many
people from travelling. But as seen in countries like Syria and Iraq,
war can itself be the main attraction. Despite the violence, tourists will likely
continue to venture into the danger zone.

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