The summer travel season is upon us and despite the latest string of terror attacks in London and Manchester, the allure of travel to Great Britain, and Europe as a whole, remains high, proving American’s resilience in our post-9/11 world.
“I think people are starting to realize that all countries will be vulnerable at one point or another,” travel consultant Liliana Lahoz of Miami-based Volare Travel told Recommend while citing the ever-present popularity of Great Britain as a vacation destination. Although Lahoz did have one client who moved their itinerary around to bypass London in favor of another European city, this happened the week after the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22. “In my own recent experience,” she says “I have actually noticed an increase in European bookings, especially for first-time travelers. I noticed that people are tuning out and they are taking advantage of unprecedented low airfares and a very strong dollar. These two factors are helping to make their dream European trip a reality.”
“I have never advised a client not to travel because of terror, that is not something that I believe in. Incidents are bound to happen at any time, anywhere. If fear takes over and we stop traveling, then terrorism will be successful.”
Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels LLC, a travel design firm based in Westport, Connecticut, shared similar sentiments, saying that she would “absolutely not” advise her clients to postpone travel to Great Britain. “We have clients in the Lake District right now and a couple heading to the Isle of Skye. We have a family going to the Scottish highlands next week for a week of hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. We just had a large family in London. They did everything, including having their own private capsule on the London Eye. They loved it!”
For Lahoz, too, the idea of telling a client to avoid Europe because of the possibility of terrorism is unrealistic. “I have never advised a client not to travel because of terror, that is not something that I believe in. Incidents are bound to happen at any time, anywhere. If fear takes over and we stop traveling, then terrorism will be successful.”
Prior to the Manchester attack, findings from Allianz Global Assistance’s annual review of summer travel intent revealed that “London will welcome a 36.55 percent increase in U.S. travelers from 2016,” and “Paris will receive a 28.77 percent increase of U.S. travelers from 2016, bringing both countries closer to the numbers of American travelers who visited in summer 2015, prior to the November 2015 Paris attacks.” That said, in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack on June 2, Allianz Global Assistance received approximately 100 claims from U.S. travelers who wanted to cancel their trip to the UK.
“This is roughly in line with the number of cancellations we saw for Paris after the November 2015 attacks,” says Daniel Durazo, director of communications for Allianz Global Assistance USA. “Our survey shows that London is experiencing a 36 percent increase in summer visitors from the U.S. over last year. We don’t think we’ve reached the tipping point for tourism in the UK yet and Americans are still enthusiastic about visiting.”
UK Tourism on Track
From a tour operator standpoint, too, it seems tourism to the UK specifically is showing no signs of slowing down. Cox & Kings, Collette and Trafalgar have not reported any cancellations to the destination.
“Travel to Great Britain is increasingly popular with our company,” says Warren H. Chang, chief operating officer, Cox & Kings, The Americas. “In fact, we will be unveiling new journeys this summer to address the interest by Americans to explore other British cities in addition to London, much of which can be done by Great Britain’s great rail network.
“I polled our destination experts for Great Britain as well as for other destinations we serve, such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and the topic of terrorism was not raised by our clients. As reported by several European airlines, Americans appear to be increasingly accustomed to the possibility of crime and terrorism anywhere, domestically and internationally, and it is not stopping us from enjoying the pleasures of traveling,” though the company “would certainly work with any client who wishes to postpone his or her travel.”
Paula Twidale, Collette’s executive v.p., says, “Great Britain is a very popular destination and it is included in seven different Collette tour series, offering hundreds of departures throughout the year. We have not seen a decrease in bookings as a result of the terror attack. One Britain program is slightly down, but others like Exploring Britain and Ireland as well as Spotlight on London and UK by Rail continue to be up double digits.” In addition to employing a crisis team that monitors events around the globe 24/7 in order to alter plans or cancel a program deemed unsafe to operate, Collette allows travelers to cancel their trip for any reason up to the day prior to departure, and offers to refund unused services with cash if a tour in progress is cancelled.
The Invitation is Open
“We are encouraging travel agents to tell their clients that London—and indeed all of Britain—is open for business, welcoming visitors to enjoy the fantastic attractions our capital city, nations, and regions have to offer,” Patricia Yates, director of strategy & communications, VisitBritain, told us. “The summer is a wonderful time to visit our world-class cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the famous Edinburgh Festivals this summer. It’s also a great time to explore our stunning coastline, dine on incredible seafood and visit our charming seaside towns like Brighton and Bristol in England or Anglesey in Wales, the former residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.”
Just remember to “refer to the U.S. State Department website for official advice for American travelers,” says Yates; and “explain the benefits of travel insurance to [your] clients,” says Durazo. “Knowing that travel insurance can provide coverage if a customer needs to cancel or interrupt their trip in the event of a terror event, not only provides peace of mind to the traveler, but it can help the travel agent close the sale.” Farewell also says, “In general, with families, it’s important that all members of the family know the name of the hotel you are staying in (even a hotel’s card is a good idea). In the event you get separated—and I don’t care if the kids are 5 or 16—you’d know where you’d have to get back to.”
“Britain is lovely, historic, and security is important to their government,” says Twidale. “I have no qualms about going to London and will be traveling over at the end of the month. It is important to remain vigilant, continue to travel as planned and live life!”
For Great Britain travel inspiration, check out our past onsite reviews “Globetrotting: Southwest England” and “Family Fun in England,” or go to VisitBritain’s dedicated online travel industry resource, trade.visitbritain.com.