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Hostile Attitudes towards Ethnic Minorities in Europe: Tourism Perspective

Hostile Attitudes towards Ethnic Minorities in Europe: Tourism Perspective
Author: Tanja Prami
1 Commentries

This paper was conducted to research a current issue concerning hostile attitudes towards ethnic minorities in Europe. The issue was examined from the tourism perspective with the aim to contribute to knowledge about tourism access and participation. The key aspects of this study are; what impact do the negative attitudes have on tourism within Europe, how Europe is perceived by ethnic minorities, and how the increase of racism is affecting the potential tourists' intentions to visit the countries in the region.

Keywords; ethnic minorities, prejudice, discrimination, racism, insecurity, threat of violence, tourism participation, tourism access

Discussion Paper:

Prejudice, discrimination and racism towards ethnic minorities have become an alarming trend in Europe. Arguably, these hostile attitudes are linked to the growth of immigration (especially in case of refugees and asylum seekers) within the region. It has been suggested that when there is a high ethnic concentration in one place, the majority population can develop unrealistic perceptions of the ethnic minorities, become threatened by them and this often leads to hostility and racism towards the minority individuals (Dustmann and Preston, 2001). Racism can be defined as a belief that some racial groups are inferior or superior to others, and that race determines ones abilities and characteristics. Racism is often expressed as hatred and discrimination towards particular groups of people, and the consequences may sometimes be violent. The volume of immigration to Europe has increased racist believes and outbursts within the region (Shah, 2010). The hostility towards immigrants and refugees is expanding towards all other ethnic minorities, no matter if they are, for example, citizens or tourists trying to enjoy their vacations.

Tourism industry does not exist in a vacuum and the increase of the negative attitudes towards ethnic minorities is bound to impact tourism supply and demand in Europe. The paper examines this concern with the aim to contribute to knowledge about tourism access and participation. The key aspects of the study are; what impact do the current racist attitudes have on tourism within Europe, how the region is perceived by ethnic minorities, and how does the increase of these hostile attitudes affect the intentions to visit the countries in Europe. There is a gap in the academic literature concerning this specific topic. Stephenson and Hughes (2005) state that tourism studies, especially from the viewpoint of race and tourism participation, have not comprehensively explored why certain individuals or groups of people are unable or unwilling to visit some destinations.

One of the first issues ethnic minority tourists may encounter is racial profiling. Racial, or ethnic, profiling means using individuals’ or groups’ racial, ethnic or religious background as the criteria to determine certain law enforcement decisions. Racial profiling is apparent especially at airports. Being discriminated and targeted can cause embarrassment and humiliation to the ethnic minority tourists. Ethnic profiling stigmatises people based on their ethnicity, race or religion and it signalises that those groups might be more likely to, for example, commit crimes. This causes unnecessary anxiety and worry to the ethnic minority tourists, and they may feel that not travelling is a better option than falling under the discomfort of scrutiny.

The research uncovered that the main factors affecting tourists’ intentions to visit Europe are; feeling insecure and being uncertain about one’s safety. The presence of racism, and the threat of violence associated with it, are the primary reasons for uncertainty amongst the ethnic minorities in Europe. This is understandable, as over 47,000 racially motivated crimes were recorded in 2013. The number is believed to be even higher as certain countries in Europe do not necessarily record all the crimes with racial motivations (ENAR, 2016). A conversation with a black man, who was intending to visit Finland and Estonia as a tourist, revealed that he felt unsure about his safety in those countries. He stated that the political discourse in Europe is very unsettling, and it is making him feel anxious about travelling to certain destinations, especially if he had to travel by himself. Because of the increasing racism and the violent attacks against ethnic minorities in Europe, some anti-racism organisations have offered to publish listings for ethnic minority tourists of ‘no-go’ places, for example, in Berlin, so they can be safer while travelling there. Due to the racist incidents, the ethnic minority travellers do not feel safe and confident about travelling to certain countries in Europe (e.g. Russia, Germany, and the Netherlands).

Undoubtedly, prejudice, discrimination and racism towards the ethnic minorities are increasing and because of this, Europe is no longer perceived as the tolerant, accepting region it used to be described as. The research suggested that some countries in Europe are not currently that welcoming to travellers of colour, and the threat of violence is present in certain areas. It was discovered that the ethnic minority tourists are aware of this and they do research on where to go and where not to. Arguably, the rapid increase of hostility towards ethnic minorities in Europe is partly due to misinformation, ignorance and general confusion around immigration issues. It was suggested that the only way to prevent racism is to have meaningful cultural exchanges with people from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. However, this topic area is still under-researched within tourism studies and it should be explored more.


Dustmann, C. and Preston, I. (2001) Attitudes to Ethnic Minorities, Ethnic Context and Location Decisions. The Economic Journal, 111, 353-373.

ENAR (2016) Black People in Europe Report Widespread Racism in Anti-Immigration Context. [online] European Network against Racism. Available from http://www.enar-eu.org/Black-people-in-Europe-report-widespread-racism-in-anti-immigration-context [Accessed 20 April 2016].

Stephenson M. L. and Hughes, H.L. (2005) Racialised Boundaries in Tourism and Travel: A Case Study of the UK Black Caribbean Community. Leisure Studies, 24(2), 137–160.

Hostile Attitudes towards Ethnic Minorities in Europe: Tourism Perspective
Author: Jade Dent
The reason why I have decided to comment on this discussion paper is due to my strong belief that this topic is one of the most predominant issues that has often been overlooked throughout the years. Also, this paper is very similar to mine and yet is explored from a different perspective. Whilst this paper focuses on increasing immigration as the primary reason for racial discrimination, my paper approached the topic from a more generalised perspective.

Firstly, I would like to highlight that the author provides a very well expressed overview of the increased racial discrimination present within tourism in Europe, and that the main focuses of the paper is relevant to the current issues within the industry. This is done well by expressing how the issues associated with racial discrimination has stemmed from increased immigration. The author refers to Stephenson and Hughes (2005), an excellent source which provides an insightful and interesting perspective on the issues associated with racial discrimination in the European tourism industry, whereas other academics in tourism studies do not highlight these issues as much. However, one recommendation I would mention is that racial discrimination stemming from immigration should not be the only issue highlighted. There are other factors that cause racism in society, particularly in the tourist industry. For example, the issue of terrorism.

There is a term defined called ‘racial profiling’ which was used very well to explain how ethnic minorities experience negative encounters when travelling. The author does briefly mention that the increase of negative attitudes towards ethnic minorities will negatively impact supply and demand in Europe, but perhaps she could have provided a more in-depth explanation about how this would have had a negative impact on the tourist industry within those specific destinations. For example, Stephenson (2006) expresses how these issues limit potential tourist’s willingness to travel, and that this could severely damage the economy of certain locations due to the decreased levels of tourism.

The author does well in highlighting that there is a need for more extensive research in this area. This is an important matter that needs to be addressed properly in tourism studies. She also makes an excellent point about how society can overcome racial discrimination by creating meaningful cultural exchanges, of which my paper expresses the same by highlighting that educating people on different cultural backgrounds would reduce the threat of racial discrimination and hostility. Overall, this discussion paper was very interesting to read and well written.


Stephenson, M. (2006). Travel and the ‘Freedom of Movement’: Racialised Encounters and Experiences Amongst Ethnic Minority Tourists in the EU. Mobilities, 1(2), pp.285-306.

Stephenson, M. and Hughes, H. (2005). Racialised boundaries in tourism and travel: a case study of the UK black Caribbean community. Leisure Studies, 24(2), pp.137-160.