Post-Brussels bombing, tourism to Europe may take a hit: tour operators

A specialist trader watches developments following the explosions in Brussels, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Travel demand to Europe could be hit and there will be an impact on fresh bookings for tours to the continent following last week's terror attack at Brussels, say tour operators.

While there have been no large scale cancellations, anxious holiday makers are calling up their travel agents seeking to alter their travel plans. There are some calls for deferrals of existing bookings as well.

"There will be definitely an impact but I think it will be short term in nature. I expect governments in Europe to enhance security measures and the panic will subside soon. But for now, customers are calling up tour operators and looking for alternate destinations instead of France or Belgium. Some of those who had expressed interest to travel to Europe are now thinking of taking holidays to the US or Australia," said Guldeep Singh Sahni, president of Outbound Tour Operators Association of India.

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The other concern for the tour operators is the timing of the latest attack. It comes within months of the attack on Paris and that too just ahead of the start of travel season. Europe is a key market for outbound tours from India and April-August is a big season for travel. It peaks around May-June when 100-200 groups of Indian travellers take a trip to Europe each week.

"The strengthening of Euro against the rupee and increase in hotel rates in Paris are other issues. The introduction of biometric visas is a dampener for customers of tier II and III cities. There will be an impact on fresh bookings but I do not think there will be cancellations as those who are already booked will have to bear cancellation charges," said Madhav Pai, managing director of WOW Holidays.

About 80 per cent of the 14-21 day Europe tours transit through Belgium with a day trip to Grand Place and Atomium while some have an overnight stay in that country, he said.

"Our Operations Control team is carefully assessing the situation and providing us an on-going evaluation and updates,'' said Rajeev Kale, president and chief operating officer (outbound), Thomas Cook, in a statement. But the company said it had received queries from customers, but no cancellations till now. "A majority of our clients have indicated that they will continue to travel as scheduled, while a few prefer to wait and watch and if required defer their departure." said Kale.

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