Is It Safe to Travel in France?

Since the awful Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan events in France in 2015, and, more recently, the horrific carnage in Brussels in March, some of our clients postponed their plans to proceed with tours in Paris and France. After the French massacres, inquiries for scheduling tours declined sharply, and it took many months before they recovered. Frightening people into changing their plans and behaviour is, of course, precisely one of the objectives of terrorists.

Perhaps our world is now more inured to horror, or maybe it is because they did not happen in France, but the aftermath of the Brussels horrors has been noticeably less dramatic for us at Paris Luxury Tours. We had a couple cancellations, but the normal flow of new inquiries for tours in Paris and France continued uninterrupted. Better, we have been blessed with an upsurge of new bookings.

Could it be that people are thinking more rationally about the risks posed by acts of terrorism, now that it is clear the phenomenon will not go away soon? It is worth examining the subject clearly and without hysterical emotion.  

According to the US State Department, 350 US citizens were killed in terrorist acts abroad in the entire world from 2001-2013.  Adding 9-11, and other deaths caused by terrorists inside the US during that period, the number jumps to 3380 persons killed. In the same period, according to Wikipedia, there were a total of 6 persons killed in France by terrorists. Add the last two years (which include the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan events), and the total reaches 163 victims.

Contrast those numbers with that of average traffic fatalities per year in the USA. Wikipedia reports the latter at well over 30,000 deaths per year since 1946. The AAA reports that more than half of them were induced by road rage. That suggests that an average of well over 15,000 persons annually died violent deaths in the US during that period, provoked by angry anonymous strangers. From such statistics, we can build the case that it has been far safer to tour in France than it was to drive in the USA.

What about deaths in the US caused by gun violence? According the the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), from 2001 to 2013, there were 406,496 persons killed by guns, including homicide, accident and suicide. What do those numbers tell us about relative risks in the US, versus touring in France?

I wish that there were reliable annual statistics for the number of fatalities in the US for drive-by-shootings; but I have not found any. However, one of our friends, who lives in New York City, reports that he personally knows three persons who died in that way.

We do not mean to trivialize the risks posed by terrorists to travelers in France; but it does help to measure that risk and compare it with others. Dangers abound in our world, and it is prudent to recognize them and take reasonable precautions. It does not make sense to let them paralyse us into inactivity.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a risk we all run, whether we are in New York City,  Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Paris or Brussels. We cannot eliminate risk. But we can derive satisfaction from denying the terrorists one of their objectives: not letting them change the way we lead our lives. Let them lead their lives in fear, and let us live our lives as fully as we can.

S.A