Interest in European vacations sag in the aftermath of terror attacks. No cancellations or significant changes to travel plans already made, but travel companies report a decline in visitors searching for trips to Europe. By Linette Lim, a view of Europe from Singapore post the Brussels bombings.
Appetite for travel to Europe has taken a hit in the wake of multiple terror attacks in and around the continent, based on data from travel booking sites Wego and TripZilla.sg.
Since last Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, Belgium, Wego told Channel NewsAsia it saw a 50 per cent week-on-week decline in the number of Singapore-based travellers searching for trips to Europe, while TripZilla.sg reported a 40 per cent drop.
The triple bombings in Brussels on Mar 22 – which claimed 32 lives – took place just months after 130 died in a series of coordinated gun and bomb attacks in Paris in November. Both attacks have since been claimed by the Islamic State group.
“Following the Paris attacks, the demand for travel to France was significantly impacted during the first two months after the attacks but it was recovering fairly quickly thereafter,” said Winnie Tan, founder and CEO of TripZilla.sg. “We believe that the same will happen for Belgium.”
Wego’s CEO & co-founder, Ross Veitch noted that in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks, destinations like China, Thailand, Australia, and Japan have seen “significant increases in interest from Singaporeans”. But he said that interest in travel to Europe is expected to return to normal in the lead up to the June school holidays.
INTEREST WANES, BUT NO CANCELLATIONS FOR TRIPS ALREADY BOOKED
Travel agency Chan Brothers said that so far, it has not had any cancellations from customers heading to Europe. “We have over 10 groups in Europe currently and are closely monitoring the situation daily to assess its continual development by keeping in touch with our local operators,” said Ms Jane Chang, its head of marketing communications.
Other travel-related companies also said there was no significant change in travel demand from Singapore to Europe. Singapore Airlines, for example, said it has not seen a noticeable change in demand for flights to Europe.
“While travelers remain cautious about travelling to Europe, we haven’t seen significant changes to demands for Belgium, but we have seen a slight decline in enquiries and bookings for Turkey,” said STA Travel’s marketing manager Erika Cortez. She cited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ advice to Singaporeans travelling to Turkey to exercise precaution in the wake of recent bomb blasts in Ankara and Istanbul.
TripZilla.sg’s Ms Tan noted that there has been fewer travel offerings to Turkey in the last months, and “search for ‘Turkey’ as a travel destination has dropped by 57 per cent” compared to a year ago.
A REBOUND ON THE CARDS?
Travel services providers Channel NewsAsia spoke to point out that what was experienced in the wake of the Paris attacks could give insights into how travel demand to Europe will trend.
STA Travel, for example, said its experience following the Nov 13, 2015 wave of attacks was that growth in bookings rebounded in a matter of a few months.
A TripAdvisor spokesperson explained: “The popular tourist destinations that suffer an attack always work quickly to do what they can to ensure security measures are strengthened and travellers will, and do, come back.”
This rebound could be helped by a reduction in room rates and flight prices, as travel services providers respond to an initial fall in travel demand, suggested TripZilla.sg.
A quick check on the websites of Europe-based carriers like AirFrance and KLM showed that they are been offering lower-than-usual prices, at around or below S$1,000 for a return trip from Singapore to some European destinations, including Athens, Barcelona, and Stockholm.
“We have been seeing large discounts for rooms and flights to Europe, and Paris in particular, since the November attacks. Prices have just started to hold relatively steady and many in the industry were thinking the downturn was about to level off completely,” said Ms Tan.
“This new attack has definitely dashed hopes of European tourism’s return to normalisation.”