How Will a New Europe Travel Alert Impact Tourism?

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Photo by Freeimages.com/Craig Toocheck

The U.S. State Department has issued a new travel alert for Europe, saying that the large number of tourists visiting Europe this summer will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially large events. The alert, which was issued May 31, expires August 31. 

The alert cites two specific events, the upcoming European Soccer Championship in France (June 10 - July 10) and the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day (July 26 - 31). Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and venues broadcasting the tournament represent potential terrorist targets during the Soccer Championship, the State Department said, in addition to other large sporting events and public gatherings throughout Europe. France has extended its state of emergency through July 26 to cover the tournament and the Tour de France (July 2 - 24). 

The State Department said that World Youth Day, which is expected to draw up to 2.5 million visitors to Krakow, Poland, could strain local infrastructure due to the large number of visitors. Poland will impose border controls at all of its national borders from July 4 to August 2, and visitors to Poland during this period should be prepared to show their passport and undergo stricter security screening throughout the country, the State Department said. 

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The State Department is also advising travelers to exercise vigilance in public places and on ass transit, to follow the instructions of local authorities, monitor local media, be prepared for additional security screening and to have an emergency plan in place. 

Impact on Travel

The travel alert has been criticized at The Economist for a lack of specificity. The alert applies to all of Europe, not a specific country, and is not based on specific intelligence. Europe is a large and diverse continent, and a warning that applies to all of it is too vague to be useful, argues The Economist. 

The Economist’s analysis mirrors past criticism of vague government travel alerts by the travel industry. In response to a Worldwide Travel Alert issued by the State Department November 23, 2015, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) released a statement that “vague, generalized worldwide travel warnings that offer no country-specific details can be confusing to travelers and risk discouraging travel across the board."

"While the issuance of the alert was no doubt well-intentioned, the lack of any detail particularizing the conditions in specific countries or regions of the world is concerning," ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby said in a statement at the time. "Vague, overly broad warnings offer travelers little in the way of helpful guidance. In fact, they have the unintended consequence of discouraging travel everywhere, negatively affecting the travel industry and the economy as a whole."

Recent studies of the impact of terrorism on travel to Europe have shown that travelers are still willing to travel to the continent, although they tend to avoid specific destinations that have experienced recent attacks. In a recent study by Allianz Global Assistance on travel to Europe this summer, cities that have experienced attacks recorded drops in tourism, especially Istanbul (down 43.7 percent) and Brussels (down 30.4 percent). Other cities recorded strong increases, including Dublin and Shannon, Ireland, (up 42.8 and 46.5 percent, respectively), Athens, Greece (up 42.7 percent), Lisbon, Portugal (up 42.3 percent) and Amsterdam, the Netherlands (up 34.5 percent). Europe travel overall was up 9.3 percent for summer 2016 over summer 2015 in that study. It remains to be seen if a new travel alert for the continent as a whole will have a different impact. 

Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for the latest travel industry news, trends and updates. 

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