Great news for the tourism industry over in the Middle East and North Africa: The Global Terrorism Database has reported an almost 40% drop in terrorist attacks in 2017.
The diminishing role of former terrorist powerhouse ISIS in countries like Syria and Iraq is certainly a major reason as to why the numbers have dropped so dramatically.
Bizarrely (or perhaps not so bizarrely), more Americans died in the US from overdosing on drugs in 2017 than people across the entire planet did via terrorist-related attacks in those same 365 days.
Middle Eastern and North African countries have been devastated over the past 7 years, and not just physically due to terrorist organizations. The nations in those regions are known to have two crown jewels:
Oil and tourism.
The flow of oil never stops, even with terrorism. Bad guys like to try and manipulate oil and its profits (think Saddam's burning of Kuwait's oil fields in the Gulf War, or ISIS's seizing and black market selling of Iraq's oil in the 2010s).
The flow of tourism, however, is a different story. This industry had already been dealt potentially fatal blows with the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011. Countries like Egypt who were on the forefront of that movement saw tourism drop almost completely.
The rapid conquest and gobbling up of huge portions of Iraq and Syria by ISIS in 2013-2015 did little to help convince tourists that a Middle Eastern excursion should be on the books any time soon.
I was living in Amman, Jordan during that time, and had the opportunity to visit Egypt as a tourist for the first time. It was as bleak as you could imagine. No lines to see the world's ancient glories, no silly Americans getting photos of themselves sitting on a camel in front of a pyramid (except for me).
Not me. (Getty Images)
It was an emotionally conflicting experience, seeing the awesome sites, but also seeing seriously poor Egyptians who operate those sites. And while the pressure was extremely high to buy things from them at outrageous and obviously inflated rates, I could understand why they were doing it.
But the Arab Spring ended. And so has - for the most part - ISIS.
But unfortunately for locals on that corner of the Mediterranean, the stigma of terror attacks runs too deep in most would-be tourists' minds.
It wasn't until late 2017 that tourists started to quietly make their way back out east, but one thing is for sure: it will be several more years before tourism in those regions even resembles its former state.
Read more over at the Washington Post.