Terrorism fears see UK tourists opting for ‘safer’ holiday destinations
Holidaymakers from the UK are opting for “safer” destinations this year, as the tourism industry continues to feel the effect of recent terror attacks in north Africa and mainland Europe.
According to industry insiders, bookings to Greece, Spain and Portugal have seen a spike, while resorts in Tunisia and Egypt continue to experience a decline in visitor numbers. Travel deals site Travelzoo, which predominantly sells package holidays, says companies it works with are expecting holidays to Spain and Greece to sell out within weeks, as airlines re-route their flights from Tunisia and Egypt.
A survey by the site also found that 30% of UK travellers now rate the general safety and security of a destination as the most important factor when deciding where to go on holiday.
This week Easyjet and British Airways announced they would continue the suspension of flights to Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh resort until as late as 27 May, while leading tour operator Thomson has cancelled all 2016 holidays to Tunisia, until at least 31 October. Easyjet released a trading statement on Tuesday that showed a 3.7% drop in revenue for the last three months of 2015. The airline said the November attacks in Paris and downing of a Russian flight from Egypt were responsible for the fall in business.
Turkey, which suffered a suicide bombing in Istanbul in January, has also seen a sharp decline in tourism according to Travelzoo, with some agents reporting a 50% drop in bookings.
Travel agent association Abta says that although the number of people booking overseas holidays in general has not declined – in fact it is up 9% year on year – UK travellers seem to be favouring western Mediterranean destinations this year.
“The threat of terrorism impacted public mood in the second half of 2015 and this is affecting holiday decisions for 2016,” said an Abta spokesperson. “Western Mediterranean destinations, in particular Spain and Portugal, are set for a bumper year, with bookings for summer 2016 tracking ahead of previous years. Other destinations including Greece and the US are also performing particularly well.”
Other travel companies agreed. Sunvilsaid it had noticed an increase in demand for Greece, Italy and Portugal this year, while Thomas Cook said it was seeing demand for holidays in the western and eastern Mediterranean, the Caribbean, North America and other long-haul destinations.
Following the attacks in Tunisa last summer, Thomas Cook increased its flights to Spain, Turkey, the Algarve and Bulgaria. Major travel companies can now react quickly to divert to popular destinations in the wake of incidents.
Louise Hodges from Travelzoo said there had been a marked shift towards certain destinations this year: “It is clear that events of terrorism last summer have had a significant impact on consumer travel habits; safety and security is now paramount for British people when making choices about travel destinations in 2016.” “This is something we haven’t seen before on this scale, and in the short to medium term we are seeing people preferring to book holidays in perceived ‘safe destinations’, such as Italy, Spain and Greece.”
Holiday lettings site Homeaway has witnessed a similar trend, which shows that although terror attacks do not affect people’s decision to travel in general, they do affect the choice of destination. According to the site, in the first two weeks after the attacks in Paris, the number of international booking requests fell by 50%.
“Although we did not see a major number of cancellations and the demand for France as a whole was not affected, travellers were less inclined to make a booking to Paris,” says Karen Mullins, EU marketing director for Homeaway. “A similar picture was seen for booking requests to Brussels and also to a lesser extent for all big European cities following the tragic events.”