terça-feira, 15 de maio de 2012

Considering the Euro crisis and the French elections, what's the future of tourism in Europe?

For the Western part of the world, Europe has always been the center of the universe. The History learned in schools is all European and even when Africa and America are studied is because Europe “discovered” them in the 15th century. Nowadays, United States occupy a big role in the worldwide scenario and China is also getting a big part of it too, but the old Europe, even after its relative loss of importance, still represents a “matriarch” for world’s politics and economy. 

Its history, because is what we most learn in schools and from general media (some European events are better known than our own history’s notable happenings), enchants everybody. The spread idea that Europe is the cradle of civilization is the responsible for thousands of people who were not born in Europe and want to live or visit its countries. The most desired destinations are always the same: France, Italy, Germany, England, Greece, Spain and Portugal. 

The first of our list, France, is facing now intense debates between their candidates for the presidential elections and the immigrants’ situation in the country is one out of the several polemics of this dispute. This issue, however, is not only French. The economical crisis Europe is dealing with during the last years is intensifying the xenophobic populism and legal actions against immigration. In the first moment we may think that this reaction is only against foreign people who are actually living in these countries, but as we can see in the last years, it also affects tourism. Brazil, recently, had to take some legal actions against Spanish tourists due to the problems Brazilian were constantly having in Spanish airports.

Comparisons are not always good, but in this case it is worth to be mentioned. In the 1930’s, Europe was also facing a big economical crisis after the First World War and the xenophobic reaction against Jews gained strength and was managed not only by the social sphere, but also for political reasons. Nowadays, the most victims of the European xenophobic discourse are the Islams and we can see it by the recent law Sarkozy implemented forbidding the use of the veil the Muslins women wear in their head under the excuse that France owns a secular civil government. In Spain, it is said that immigration is the responsible for the insufficient welfare state because it abuses healthcare. These arguments, although they are not true, give simple answers to more complex problems and population in general end up believing and supporting this racist discourse. 

Now France is through its presidential elections, Sarkozy and Hollande have opposite views about the same issue. Whilst the first candidate proposes a language proficiency test to all the ones who want to enter into the country, which would considerably limit the number of immigrants, Hollande wants to regularize everybody who is illegal and also permit the right to vote for immigrants in municipal elections. It’s very surprising the fact that Hollande, the socialist candidate, is the favorite for the elections, but we cannot forget that Le Pen, the right extremist who lost the round one and had a very xenophobic discourse, had almost 20% of the French votes, which is very significant amount. 

Although tourism is esteemed because it brings money to the place where it happens, the fact that many tourists end up staying in the continent and not going back is being responsible for making tourism also a victim of this xenophobic wave that’s rising through Europe. The Spanish airports’ problem Brazilians were facing is a good example: they fear the possibility that who is entering into the continent as tourists become illegal immigrants. That´s what I think the tendency of tourism in Europe is going to face in the next years if the European crisis increases. 

If the socialist candidate in France wins the elections, however, a big change may happen. One unique country making easier the immigration in a continent where their neighbors are each time closing its doors for foreign people, will become an open door not only for tourism in Europe, but also to illegal immigrants.

In the end, I think Europe will always enchant people and will always be one of the favorite destinations for tourists. Depending on the moment the continent is facing, its entrance is easier or not. In Greece, which we know is the most problematic country in the European crisis, is being helped by tourism, which is rarefying the crisis effects and the prices, because of the crisis, decrease, attracting more tourists. As we can see, tourism in Europe has both sides: when it is needed, the entrance gets easier and cheaper, but when it is affected by political discourse and xenophobic fears, it becomes a delicate issue, mixing illegal immigrants and tourists in the same speech.

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