The U.S. State Department has issued a new travel alert for Europe.
Citing recent terrorist attacks in France, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the State Department said on its website that ISIS, al Qaeda and their affiliates have the ability to plan and executive terrorist attacks in Europe. The new travel alert is set to remain in effect throughout the summer travel season, expiring September 1.
The move comes following a recent series of terrorist attacks in Europe. Most recently, a gunman opened fire on a police van on the Champs Elysees in Paris, shutting down the tourist attraction the night of a major campaign event in the French election. In Stockholm, a man drove a truck into a department store on a major pedestrian street, prompting the city’s subway system and Parliament to go into lockdown. In March, a terrorist in London drove a 4x4 into a crowd of people walking on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the gates of the House of Commons.
“Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets,” the State Department said. “In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports, and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks.”
The State Department advised U.S. citizens to exercise additional vigilance in locations like these, especially as the upcoming summer travel season may draw large crowds.
The State Department advised travelers headed to Europe to check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate in their destination city for any recent security messages, as well as to follow the instructions of local authorities, to be prepared for additional security measures, to stay in touch with family members, to have an emergency plan ready and to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
At the inaugural Secure Tourism Summit by the U.S. Travel Association, Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, spoke on the challenges of securing tourism destinations in the face of a changing threat environment.
“We face a more complicated threat environment in which we have to be concerned about a range of threats, those who may travel here but those who may self-radicalize as well,” Johnson said. “We have to be concerned about public places and events, but not to the exclusion of any one of those. We still have to be concerned about aviation…about transportation hubs.”
In a March survey by Virtuoso, 40 percent of Virtuoso advisors reported that clients are now avoiding certain destinations due to terrorism concerns, including destinations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and especially Turkey and Egypt. Countries viewed as safer included Japan, Canada and New Zealand.
Wondering how to talk to your clients following a terrorist attack? At the Secure Tourism Summit Ari Fleischer, who was the White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush during 9/11, laid out a five-step plan for crisis communications.