Airlines, tour operators and hotel companies are allowing guests to rebook or cancel trips to Nice free of charge after a terrorist driving a truck mowed down Bastille Day revelers in the French coastal town late Thursday, killing at least 84.
The attack on Nice’s seaside Promenade des Anglais deals a fresh blow to Europe’s travel industry, which is already reeling from a recent string of terrorist incidents. Many European vacationers are shunning Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey because of violence and concerns about security, while high-spending overseas travelers from Asia and the Americas have been deterred by attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March. Thursday’s deaths on the French Riviera threaten further disruption.
“France was just bouncing back from the Paris attacks,” said Wouter Geerts, a travel analyst at Euromonitor International in London.“This will definitely have an impact on travel, and on how people perceive the wider safety of France.” Nice may take longer to rebound than Paris, which is more iconic and therefore more resilient, he said.
EasyJet Plc, the biggest carrier at Nice’s airport with 529 weekly flights, will allow passengers slated to fly this weekend to get a refund or change dates for free. While schedules operate as normal, airlines including Air France and Deutsche Lufthansa AG said they’ll also waive rebooking fees temporarily. Marriott International Inc. is allowing free cancellations at its five hotels on the French Riviera. TUI AG, Europe’s largest tour operator, said clients with plans to travel to Nice through July 31 can rebook at no extra cost.
Nice served 2.3 million foreign visitors last year, ranking as France’s second most-visited city after Paris with 15 million, according to data complied by Euromonitor. Nice Cote d’Azur airport is France’s third-busiest, after the capital’s two hubs, and the French government is in the process of selling its 60 percent stake.
The attack is already hurting tourism in the Mediterranean city. Authorities closed part of the beach along the promenade where the attack occurred, with a police boat patrolling offshore Friday morning and telling sunbathers to clear the area. The Nice Jazz Festival, a five-day event featuring international artists including Robert Plant and George Clinton that was to begin Saturday, was canceled, the organizers said.
The nature of the attack in Nice, which generated a high death toll while requiring little skill from the perpetrator, “raises the risk of the repeated use of the tactic in France and allied countries in the coming months, as well as copycat attacks in the following days,” Matthew Henman, head of research company IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said in a report.
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