Fear of Iraqi-sponsored terrorism is keeping vacation and business travelers at home, and it's clobbering the travel industry worldwide.
There have been several dozen relatively minor terrorist attacks around the world since war in the Persian Gulf began - but many people are travel-shy, particularly Americans, industry experts say.In addition, many American companies, including IBM, have told their employees to stay put or cut back on business trips. Businessmen are being told to rely on ground travel, telephone conferences and faxes.
International airlines and hotels have reported drops in reservations, and increasing cancellations and no-shows.
Tourism is Europe's biggest single export earner and the industry, already hurt by the global recession and the weak dollar, is heavily dependent on American business.
The Times of London said in a recent editorial that it detected "the specter of the great American wimp" in the reaction to Saddam Hussein's calls for terrorist action.
"The American market is very susceptible to something like this. They just are more nervous," said Sue Morris, a spokeswoman for the English Tourist Board.
But some believe that Americans will not stay home for long.
Richard Branson, owner of Britain's Virgin Atlantic Airways, told Sky television: "They're just as likely to be mugged or hurt in New York or L.A. as they are in Europe and hopefully, they'll be brave enough to actually come to our shores again soon."
British lawmaker James Cran, intending to do a favor for the travel industry, asked Prime Minister John Major to assure the world that British airports were "almost as safe as anywhere in the world."
He was nearly drowned out by colleagues shouting that they were just as safe.
British army tanks and soldiers with machine guns have been protecting London's Heathrow airport since the war began, and Pan American Airlines refuses to carry Iraqi nationals.