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TRAVEL ADVISORY

Tourism Declines Dramatically Amid Israeli-Palestinian Hostilities

November 26, 2000|EDWARD WRIGHT | Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Middle East

Israel and the Territories: Weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence have devastated tourism in Israel, according to news accounts. The number of visitors dropped about 50% last month, and thousands have canceled vacation plans. Airlines have reduced flights, and some hotels have shut down temporarily. The State Department is warning Americans to put off travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Egypt: Citing the possibility that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in Egypt, the State Department advises Americans to "exercise caution in considering travel" to that country. Americans in Egypt should "take appropriate steps to reduce their vulnerability," the department said in an announcement effective until Jan. 27.

Europe

Britain: Police have said that Irish republican splinter groups may be planning a major bomb attack during the Christmas holidays, according to Reuters news service. Of most concern would be a "large vehicle bomb in a city center," a London police official said. The most recent terrorist incident on the British mainland was a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the central London headquarters of the MI6 intelligence service in September, causing minor damage. The attack was attributed to a splinter group called the Real IRA, which does not accept the 1998 cease-fire between Britain and the Irish Republican Army. In a possibly related development, London last week canceled its public New Year's Eve celebration. Officials cited safety concerns without mentioning terrorism. Last New Year's Eve, 3 million people packed central London.

Latin America

Peru: Even before President Alberto Fujimori abruptly resigned last week after leaving his country for Japan, the State Department was warning travelers of political unrest in Peru. Fujimori had scheduled new elections for next April, but that date could change. Sporadic political demonstrations are likely to continue until after the elections, the State Department advises. Machu Picchu and other major tourist sites have been largely unaffected, although transportation strikes have caused delays on the Cuzco/Machu Picchu railroad, on major highways and in downtown Lima. Demonstrations, usually announced in advance, have been mostly peaceful but could become violent. Americans in Peru should monitor local newscasts, avoid demonstrations and, if planning travel outside the capital, check with the U.S. Embassy for security information.

Guatemala: Two Americans were beaten and threatened with death by a mob of villagers in northern Guatemala who were reacting to the apparent kidnapping of 3-year-old twins. The Americans, brothers who own a home in the village of San Jose in Peten state, were held along with two Guatemalan men. Police and U.N. representatives persuaded the mob to free the four men, and a police spokesman said there was no evidence linking them to the kidnapping. The children are thought to have been sold into adoption. A recent U.N. report called Guatemala the world's third leading exporter of children for illegal adoption, behind Russia and China.

Briefly . . .

Fiji: In the wake of a gun battle earlier this month between rebels and the Fijian military in Suva, the capital, the U.S. Embassy advises Americans to avoid Suva through January. Although a curfew has been lifted, U.S. citizens in Fiji are urged to stay indoors and monitor news broadcasts. . . . Honduras: A 65-year-old California man on a driving tour of Central America was stabbed to death in his motor home in the town of Zambrano, about 20 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa. Police suspected robbery as a motive. . . . Yemen: The bombing of a U.S. warship in the port of Aden has scared some tourists away, but foreigners continue to visit. Although travel agencies report large-scale cancellations for this month, several yachts and cruise ships, among them two German liners, have put into Yemeni ports since the Oct. 12 bombing. . . . Uganda: Health officials have confirmed an outbreak of Ebola, centered in the Gulu district of northern Uganda, with more than 100 fatalities reported. Travelers in that area should avoid funeral services for disease victims and be aware that in previous outbreaks, the often-fatal virus has spread rapidly in hospitals. . . . Philippines and Malaysia: In response to several kidnappings of foreigners in recent months, the Philippine military has beefed up security at Boracay Island, a popular beach resort. It is hundreds of miles from remote Jolo Island, refuge of hostage-holding Muslim rebels. Malaysia, meanwhile, announced plans to deploy more than 700 soldiers to guard 13 resort islands in the waters between the island of Borneo and the southern Philippines, the area where 21 hostages were seized in April.

Hot spots: Citing the deteriorating security situation surrounding today's presidential election, the State Department has added Haiti to its list of places considered risky for Americans. Ivory Coast also has joined the list, because of political instability after the Oct. 22 presidential vote. Others on the travel-warning list are Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo (formerly Zaire), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225. Internet address is http://www.travel.state.gov.

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