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Travel to dangerous destinations popular

24 October 2007

The fact that bmi, Heathrow’s second largest airline, is launching new flights to destinations in the Middle East and Africa indicates that more and more travelers are heading for “dangerous” and war-torn countries.

The destinations to which bmi will operate flights from October 28, 2007, include the Middle Eastern cities of Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Damascus and Aleppo, as well as Khartoum, Dakar and Ankara.

The airline will also fly to a number of destinations in the former Soviet Union, including Tbilisi, Georgia, Yerevan, Armenia, Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and the central Russian city of Ekaterinburg.

Technically, bmi’s routes are not wholly new since most of these routes were previously operated by British Mediterranean Airways.

According to Phil Shepherd, spokesman for bmi, the new routes are primarily aimed at business.

However, bmi’s expansion coincides with research showing that travelers are heading to war-torn countries in increasing numbers.

Rwanda, in Africa, still recovering from the mass genocide of 1994, attracted 37,000 tourists in 2006, compared with nearly 2,000 tourists six years ago, according to Rwanda’s Office of Tourism and National Parks.

Afghanistan was visited by over 3,100 travelers in the first three months of 2007, compared with the 9,000 visitors who headed to the country in the whole of 2006.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, involved in a three-year civil war from 1992 to 1995, has witnessed the number of visitors going up from a handful of travelers to about 500,000 each year. Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was featured in Michael Palin’s New Europe television series, which has also encouraged travelers to be more adventurous.

According to Jim Louth, managing director of Undiscovered Kingdoms, which has been taking travelers to “dangerous” destinations, the growing trend of daring travel and bmi’s expansion is no surprise. He says: “The new route announcement is encouraging and I think bmi is being shrewd. It is tapping into a niche market. When an established carrier goes into these places, it gives people a bit more confidence.”

It is interesting to note the profile of travelers heading for “dangerous” destinations. “Our typical client,” says Jim Louth, “is 50-plus and retired. They are usually well-traveled, having gone abroad after university but then been tied down with work and family. They’re now after an experience – it’s not just about what there is to see.”






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