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Europe’s $6.6 Billion Tourism Market Is Shaken

April 4, 1986

LONDON (AP) _ Terrorism and the weak dollar are keeping many Americans away from Mediterranean countries and from Europe where U.S. tourists spent $6.6 billion last year.

Some countries expect a summer of empty hotels and quiet cash registers with the impact ranging from a tourism catastrophe for Egypt to setbacks for the tour industries of Greece and Italy.

Last year 6.4 million Americans, up from 3.8 million in 1980, spent $6.6 billion in Europe, according to the European Travel Commission, a 23-country organization that promotes tourism to Europe.

Spokesman E.P. Carney said the commission still hoped for a ″reasonably good year in 1986″ but it was hard to make predictions after Wednesday’s bombing of a Trans World Airline jet that killed four Americans on a flight from Rome to Athens.

American Express expects a decline of 20 percent to 25 percent in the number of package-tour bookings from the United States, said John Duncan, spokesman for American Express operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

″The high-profile publicity in the States on terrorist activity and (Wednesday’s TWA bombing) haven’t helped,″ Duncan said in London. ″But the substantial decline of the dollar against European currencies also hasn’t helped. The dollar is down about 30 percent against a year ago.″

Here are reports on some main tourist areas compiled by Associated Press bureaus in European and Middle Eastern countries:

EGYPT: ″It’s a disaster,″ said Shawky Hussein, an executive with the government-owned Misr Travel Co. He said the number of U.S. visitors dropped by up to 40 percent in November and December after hijackings of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, in which one American was slain, and of an Egyptair jet, in which an American and an Israeli were singled out and killed by the hijackers.

In March, rioting Egyptian police conscripts wrecked tourist hotels near the Pyramids and the army was called out to quell the disturbances.

Ashraf Ghorbal, who led a tourism-promotion mission to the United States last month, said, ″The Americans are afraid of traveling to the whole eastern Mediterranean area because of the recent spate of hijacking, bomb explosions and airport attacks.″

ISRAEL: The number of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for the Easter holiday was noticeably low, and government figures show that tourism from the United States in January and February was 35 percent lower than the year before.

GREECE: The bomb explosion Wednesday on the TWA jet was a blow to a tourism industry staggering under previous terrorism attacks. Bookings at Athens luxury hotels are down 60 percent this year, said Apostolos Doxiadis, president of the Athens Hoteliers’ Association.

Doxiadis told the AP the industry had hoped for a gradual increase in business as people forgot about last year’s hijackings. ″Now the logical answer is no,″ he said. ″If you remind Americans every three months that their lives are in danger, they just won’t come here.″

Travel industry officials worry that American tourism could drop 50 percent in 1986. Last year 466,000 Americans visited Greece, and the Common Market estimates that Greece lost $100 million in tourism revenue.

ITALY: As of Easter, American tourism was down 15 percent from last year, said Gabriele Moretti, head of Italy’s national tourist board.

Rome hotels reported a drop in American visitors. At the Hilton the number of Americans was down 40 percent, and almost all American tour groups had canceled for 1986.

BRITAIN: The favorite starting point for American tours of Europe, Britain counted 3.3 million American visitors last year, up 15 percent from 1984, and hopes for even more with the rare attraction of a royal wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson on July 23.

″The announcement of the royal wedding is the right kind of thing for us because people like our royal pageantry, which no other country has,″ said Sandy Dawe, a spokeswoman for the British Tourist Authority.

IRELAND: Concern about strife in Northern Ireland is taking the edge off a record set in 1985 for American tourism: 426,000 visitors, up 24 percent from 1984. With the weakened dollar and a fall in overall American bookings to Europe, ″we’ll be very lucky if we hold on to the volume of business we had in 1985,″ said an Irish Tourist Board official.

WEST GERMANY: American group tours are down by 10-20 percent so far this year, said Klaus Mueller of the German Tourist Central Agency in Frankfurt. But the dollar’s weakness is given the largest share of the blame for the drop.

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