Only a small percentage of Americans generally travel to Europe anyway and many will undoubtedly opt for vacations closer to home. Still, travel usually recovers a few months after a major incident unless disruptions become persistent, which is the fear.
What are the prospects for vacation travel to Europe this summer?
Although some Americans are cancelling their travel plans to Europe in the wake of the terrorist attacks and a U.S. State Department travel alert, TripAdvisor officials believe travelers will be resilient and return to impacted destinations while the American Society of Travel Agents thinks — or hopes — that many travelers will maintain their Summer itineraries for Europe.
Calling it an “individual decision whether or not to travel when a government alert is in effect,” TripAdvisor spokesperson Kevin Carter advised travelers to check government websites for the latest updates on security information.
“On the whole travelers don’t seem to be allowing global security concerns to curtail their spirit of adventure,” said Carter of TripAdvisor. “Experience tells us that after a terrorist attack travel is immediately impacted, sometimes more severely than others. Travelers may decide to still travel but to switch destinations or stay closer to home. The popular tourist destinations that suffer an attack always work quickly to do what they can to ensure security measures are strengthened and travelers will, and do, come back. What all these recent attacks have had in common is that they dial up the resilience and determination people have shown to not let fear disrupt their daily lives.”
“The recent uptick of terrorist attacks is horrific and we are deeply troubled and saddened by each event. Our thoughts are with all of the residents and travelers impacted. The issue of security is an important one facing the travel industry.”
American Society of Travel Agents
Jennifer Michels, a spokesperson for the America Society of Travel Agents, argues that agents’ clients might delay their travel or take a wait and see attitude about the security situation.
“As we found in a poll of ASTA travel agents in November following the Paris attacks, when we asked if clients were delaying or canceling travel to and from or within Europe at that time, 64% said no,” Michels said. “So Americans especially seem to be fairly resilient and do not panic and cancel trips, unless perhaps they are traveling in the next few days.”
“Some advice our members give their clients are things like allow extra time at airports and train stations, be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to local news. Also, a travel agent can help travelers with travel insurance. Because not all policies are the same, we recommend travelers ask the travel insurance provider about force majeure clauses and whether or not they are covered (that term covers things in contracts that are unavoidable accidents or chance occurrences that cannot be planned.) But an agent can help a traveler decide which type of policy is best for them.”
In a blog post about the terrorist attacks in Brussels, BCD Travel stated that the tragedy highlights how risk management needs to change so that companies are prepared to react around the clock, and travelers need to do a better job of keeping their companies informed about their whereabouts.
“Journeys that we once labeled as low risk, such as a business trip to Brussels or Paris, now must be considered higher risk,” said Martin Weisskirchen, vice president of BCD Travel Global Crisis Management, according to the blog.
BCD states: “It’s still essential for companies to identify, assess and mitigate risk before employees travel. But now reaction time is as important as planning. Corporate travel programs have to be ready to make decisions quickly; communicate with travelers and executives; and act as a situation unfolds.”
Airlines For America
Airlines for America, the airline trade group, didn’t comment directly on the State Department travel alert, which expires June 20 but stated that it works closely with government agencies on security.
“A4A and our members hold the safety and security of its customers and employees as our highest priorities. We continually coordinate with government agencies on issues involving safety and security. I would note that a number of U.S. airlines announced policies, including refunds and the ability to rebook without penalty, to accommodate passengers traveling to Brussels. Customers should contact their carrier for more information on their individual polices.”
Several entities, including the Global Business Travel Association and eDreams Odigeo in Spain, declined to comment on the U.S. travel alert for Europe.
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Photo credit: An arrivals and departure board is seen behind blown out windows at Zaventem Airport in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Associated Press