Is Traveling to Europe Safe?

Is Traveling to Europe Safe?

Tourism boards and travel agents weigh in on Europe’s situation for travelers By: Meagan Drillinger
<p>Despite this year’s terror attacks in Paris, there have been very few cancellations for travel to France. // © 2015 Creative Commons user <a...

Despite this year’s terror attacks in Paris, there have been very few cancellations for travel to France. // © 2015 Creative Commons user aigle_dore

Feature image (above): Europe is expecting a banner year in tourism for the year ahead. // © 2015 Creative Commons user aigle_dore

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With France in a state of emergency and terror in Turkey, we reached out to experts and people on the ground in Europe to get a better picture of the travel situation for tourists. On the whole, we found that Europe is still perfectly safe, and that certain destinations are expected to do better than ever.

The country on everyone’s minds is France, especially with its added measures of security and its three-month state of emergency. But for the most part, everything in France is business as usual. Travelers must keep a few things in mind — notably, that the government has decided to establish systematic checks at entry points to France, including road, rail, port and airport crossing points. These border control restorations mean that passports must be presented at these checkpoints, even if a traveler is coming from another country in the European Union. Delays are to be expected at airports and stations employing international services, so allow for extra travel time. All tourist attractions in France remain open.

“We have had virtually no cancellations to France, even though we offered guests traveling to Paris through Nov. 27 the opportunity to postpone or cancel without penalty,” said Lisa McKee, public relations lead and communications manager for Trafalgar and Brendan Vacations. “We expect future trips to operate as scheduled, but in all cases, we will be guided by the U.S. State Department and French authorities.” 

Other countries in Europe are not reporting any lack of interest, either. 

“I have not seen any push back from clients on existing European travel bookings,” said Franca Di Spigna, a travel advisor with Valerie Wilson Travel. “I sense some people are waiting to make any further European plans for 2016 until the start of the first quarter, in order to have a better sense of the global economic and political climate.”

Britain is open, operating as usual and welcoming visitors, according to Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications for VisitBritain. 

“The U.K. threat level has not been raised,” Yates said. “Theaters, restaurants, hotels, attractions and shops are all open as usual, and airports, ports, airlines and public transportion are all operating normal services. We have seen record numbers of visitors to Britain this year and anticipate that inbound tourism will continue to see sustained growth.”

Switzerland saw a growth of 6 percent from January to September 2015, compared to the same period last year, according to Alex Herrmann, director of the Americas for Switzerland Tourism. The Swiss National Tourist Office reports that tour operators and hotels in Switzerland are not indicating a change in booking levels or cancellations. 

Greece is expecting a banner year in travel. 

“2016 is expected to be a busy tourism season for Greece and the islands,” said Konstantinos Bastas of Protravel International. “Nonstop airlift from the U.S. has increased by more than 75 percent from last year with the additional flights added by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to Athens. The success of Greece’s tourism season will have much to do with the global state of affairs. As long as travelers feel comfortable traveling, Greece should see a record tourism season.”

Turkey, however, will continue to be a bit of a question mark until the world sees how the situation unfolds. 

“Turkey is bleeding,” said Ronen Paldi, president of Ya’lla Tours USA. “We just lost a pilgrimage tour to Turkey for early next year because of what’s going on in Paris.” 

However, much of the state of travel in Turkey remains to be seen.

“A lot of things are unknown and unknowable,” said Earl Starkey of Protravel. “If Turkey can stay out of the news negatively for a while, I think we will have a good year. Turkey is and remains a safe destination for tourists. The crisis in Syria is a long way away from the major tourist sites and would not affect travelers wanting to visit those destinations.”