The Israel-Hamas war has had widespread repercussions, with its effects being felt not only in the Middle East but also across the globe. The conflict has led to significant disruptions in travel and has increased concerns about safety and security. This article examines the impact of the war on travel, focusing on international arrivals, domestic travel, and travelers’ perceptions of safety.

International Travel

According to travel data company ForwardKeys, international arrivals to the Middle East in the fourth quarter of 2023 grew compared to the previous year. However, this increase mainly stemmed from visitors to Saudi Arabia, with the overall growth matching 2019 numbers. This is far below the expected 30% rise in inbound travelers compared to 2019 levels, based on airline ticket purchases before the attack on Israel. The outlook for 2024 remains uncertain, as ticket purchases to the Middle East have only increased by 9% compared to 2019. Countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt have experienced declines in ticket purchases, with Jordan being the most affected, experiencing a staggering 50% drop.

The impact of the Israel-Hamas war extends far beyond the Middle East, as revealed by a survey conducted by Morning Consult. The survey found that one in five Americans had postponed, rescheduled, or canceled their travel plans due to the conflict. While cancellations for trips within the United States accounted for the majority, many respondents also reported changes to their plans for visits to the Middle East, North Africa, and Western Europe. This highlights the war’s influence on global traveler sentiment and the apprehension it has created, leading people to feel uneasy about venturing far from home.

Following the attack on Israel, tensions spilled over to various aspects of society, including college campuses, workplaces, and suburban neighborhoods. Many countries reported a surge in hate crimes against Muslims and Jewish people. The rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, stoked by the conflict, has also impacted travel. A global travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department further affected traveler confidence, with 62% of respondents being aware of it. The advisory warned of increased tensions and the potential for terrorist attacks and violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests. Such alerts, coupled with rising anti-U.S. sentiments linked to the war, have added to travelers’ concerns.

Domestic travel within the United States has also been affected by the war. ForwardKeys reports that U.S. domestic travel in the fourth quarter of 2023 fell below 2019 levels. The positive outlook for domestic travel abruptly reversed after the outbreak of the conflict. This downturn underscores the impact of the ongoing conflict in Israel on travel within the United States. The cancellation of trips in the U.S. was driven by the larger number of domestic travelers and the resulting disruption caused by the conflict.

The war has significantly influenced travelers’ perceptions of safety. According to the Morning Consult survey, respondents with knowledge of the conflict viewed traveling to the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe as less safe. Those who were unaware of the war expressed comparatively higher levels of perceived safety. Additionally, Zicasso’s Luxury Travel Report highlighted geopolitical conflict as one of the obstacles to booking travel in 2024. Uncertainty and safety concerns in certain regions may discourage travelers from making arrangements.

Changing Travel Preferences

The war has caused a shift in travel preferences, with travelers redirecting their plans to alternative destinations. Zicasso’s CEO, Brian Tan, noted a significant decline in trip requests to Israel and the surrounding region following the October events. However, Tan observed a recent rise in trip requests for Morocco, which is located thousands of miles away from Jerusalem. This shift in demand underscores how geopolitical conflict can lead travelers to seek out relatively safer destinations.

The Israel-Hamas war has had a wide-ranging impact on travel, affecting international arrivals, domestic travel, and travelers’ perceptions of safety. The conflict’s repercussions are not limited to the Middle East, as travelers worldwide have altered their plans due to concerns about safety and security. Understanding the global perspective on the war’s influence on travel is crucial for both industry stakeholders and travelers themselves.

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