Commentary by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
NICE, FRANCE — Mel Dark rolls a baby stroller with her new-born daughter into an Irish bar and greets me with a hug. It is the first time we have seen each other in more than five years and the meeting begins with a grim recounting of what occurred just hours earlier. Dark, a former Torontonian, and her young family have made Nice their home for the past two years. Drawn to the heart of the French Riviera by the scenery, calm pace of life and less expensive cost of living, Dark contemplates the terrorist attack on Bastille Day and remains resolute.
“We just have to go about life as usual. I get the sense the city is determined to do that,” says the accomplished copywriter who is part of a vibrant expatriate community in Nice.
A day after a maniacal driver plowed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating the French national holiday, the streets of Nice were not what many outside of the city might expect. It was calm and very much business as usual. Police and army officers occupied parts of the city — including squares, parks and popular promenades — and lots of media took up residence outside of Le Meridien Hotel on the waterfront, sight of the attack.
But cafes, restaurants and beaches had a lot of people. Maybe not as much as usual, but the city on the Baie des Anges, which feeds into the Mediterranean Sea, was far from demoralized by the actions of one thug. Tourists, however, have not exhibited the same resolve.
Dark rents a studio apartment through Airbnb and says her guests who had been scheduled to arrive on July 14 cancelled. A hotel worker I spoke to said many properties reported cancellations (though arriving journalists took up the rooms, limiting the loss of revenue).
France is the most visited destination in the world. An honour that reflects its cultural significance to the world, its ability to deliver extraordinary experiences, and the ease and comfort which with people from around the globe usually feel when they are in the nation.
The reputation has been built up through decades and the latest terrorist attack on France won’t stop many from coming. In 2015, the nation reported a 4 per cent increase in tourism from the previous year, attracting 85 million tourists who accounted for 150 billion euro ($215 billion CAD) in revenue.
David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), expressed the importance of the country in the global tourism market.
“France is the natural home of international tourism — the most visited destination in the world,” Scowsill says in a press release on Friday. “With this attack on its day of national celebration of the principles of liberty, equality, and brotherhood — the same principles championed by Travel & Tourism — our sector stands in unity with the people of Nice and France.”
It is a sentiment that concerned citizens everywhere should adopt, I think. The less we travel, the less we understand our cultures and our distinctiveness, the less we are able to collaborate and evolve, the less we are able to enjoy the joys of being alive on this earth. The less we travel, the less we live. Terrorists want to paralyze you with fear. When you travel, you do as Dark and the citizens of Nice are intent today on doing — proving you can make a statement simply by going on with life as you want to live it.