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Tour Operators Respond to Europe Travel AlertOctober 8, 2010 By: Jena Tesse Fox
Out of seemingly nowhere this week, the State Department issued an alert to U.S. citizens for the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe. How did the travel industry handle the alert? Fairly calmly, it turns out.
The Travel Corporation (comprising Trafalgar, Brendan, Insight, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and more) president Richard Launder pointed out that the advisory is not a warning, and that it was not specific. “We are operating all our tours,” he said, but added that the companies “will be vigilant and will continue to be guided by the state department.”
Globus' vice president of Marketing Steve Born said that the company’s team is well-versed in dealing with difficult and potentially unsafe situations. “We were in Madrid in 2004; we were in Mumbai when hotels were under fire in 2008...the list goes on,” he said. “We have experienced teams of people, on-site with our travelers: Travel experts that are on alert and are well-trained to execute the best plans to ensure the safety of those traveling with us.” He also pointed out that the State Department is not telling people not to travel. “Instead, we are providing reactive support for those calling our customer service team and/or their travel agents to discuss the situation.”
Kerstin Sowden, Kensington Tours’ Europe region manager, said that the company has not received any concerned calls from clients. “Our communication will be that these are 'alerts' and not 'advisories', which has more to do with presenting information versus specific concerns,” she said. “We have local offices around the world giving us a better sense of the situation on the ground. Their sentiment about any threat seems unchanged."
Stephen McGillivray, Vice President Marketing & Public Relations for Vacation.com, said that while the company alerted its members about the advisory, “the majority of European tour operators we have spoken to have told agents their tours and cruises are operating normally and as scheduled. Normal insurance conditions will apply.”
“Our clients are frequent international travelers, well aware of current political concerns and the need to be vigilant no matter where in the world they may be,” said Pamela Lassers of Abercrombie & Kent. “The calls we've had this morning have been from travel agents checking on their clients currently travelling. All those currently in Europe have expressed confidence in their arrangements and are continuing with their itineraries as originally planned. It is very much business as usual, though we are closely monitoring the situation.”
Perhaps the most personal response came from Judith Davis Baer, the President and Founder of JDB Fine Hotels & Resorts, who returned from a trip to Italy just as the alert was announced. “I saw tons of Americans who were enjoying their vacations without fear of terrorist activities,” she declared. “Italian security is very vigilant these days."