Should travel plans in Europe be revised because of the war in Ukraine?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – With the easing of travel restrictions since the beginning of 2022, Gabrielle Anthony has booked a multi-week trip to her native Germany, which she has always dreamed of, followed by a 12-day cruise to Norway with friends.

Since the death of her mother in February 2020, this 64-year-old Florida resident and U.S. green card holder has not returned to Germany.

At the time, Anthony was forced to return suddenly to the United States, where he had lived for decades, to avoid closing borders in parallel with the spread of the pandemic.

But since then she wanted to return to her small town of Sonthofen, “to grieve properly” for her mother, she says, visiting the cafes they frequented together and the long walks they once did, at the foot of the hills. The Bavarian Alps.

Bookings in Europe have slowed since mid-February, according to the travel website Huber., Plain_textCredit: Joel Saget / AFP via Getty Images

On the eve of her trip, Anthony was busy booking hotels and flights, making deals with friends and following developments in Ukraine in parallel since its occupation by Russia on February 24, as well as anyone planning to visit Europe.

According to a recent survey by MMGY Travel Intelligence, MMGY Global Marketing Research Division has concluded that the impact of the Ukraine war on current American travel plans in Europe could double, similar to the coronavirus pandemic.

And 62% of the 350 adult American travelers surveyed who want to visit Europe said the Russian occupation is a factor in planning their trip, compared to 31% who expressed health and safety concerns about the Covid-19.

Moreover, 47% said they are in a position to “watch” how the situation is evolving, before coming up with any ideas for visiting Europe this year.

Flight data reflect a similar frequency.

Hopper flight tracker reports that searches for return flights to Europe from the US have been on the rise as the omicron wave recedes, showing a strong reversal of demand to cross the Atlantic.

But as news of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine began to make headlines in mid-February, that demand began to diminish gradually.

You can travel safely

Do travelers have to rethink their travel plans in Europe because of the war in Ukraine?
People sit outside on a sunny afternoon in the Dutch city of Dordrecht, March 10, 2022., plain_textCredit: Jeffrey Groeneweg / ANP / AFP via Getty Images

However, travel and safety experts say there is no need to start canceling flights yet.

The US State Department ranked Ukraine and Russia in the fourth level of travel and warned of travel to them, but did not issue similar warnings to European countries affected by the crisis.

Poland, which accepts most of the Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, was included in the fourth level, but because of concerns about COVID-19, and not about the current conflict. Despite the crisis in Ukraine, Europe continues to receive travelers.

After two years of pandemic exhaustion, the tourism sector is more eager to welcome visitors than ever before.

While concerns about war travel are real, security experts also point out that many of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, such as Barcelona, ​​Rome and Paris, are hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away from the hotspot where they are taking place. battles. .

“You do not need to feel this kind of added anxiety, which is the only thing that is visible to me right now more than anything else,” said Greg Pearson, CEO and founder of Care & Assistance Plus, the aid service for travel and crisis. recently launched by global fokusPoint International.

He added, “People can cancel their plans prematurely, and I do not think we are at that stage yet … But when it comes to traveling to Western Europe, I think it is possible to travel safely.”

What about the countries closest to Ukraine? The situation may become a little more ambiguous.

Pearson said about 30% of Care & Assistance Plus customers have canceled or postponed trips to countries including the Czech Republic and Germany in recent weeks, even though they do not border Ukraine.

Other travelers diverted their routes from the conflict in Western Europe.

In addition, Pearson noted, some travelers are concerned if they can take part in river boat excursions in Eastern Europe.

“The advice we gave them was, of course, you can get off the boat,” Pearson told CNN.

He continued, “These countries need these dollars in tourism, and they want to see you, and they want you to visit their restaurants, buy and stay if you can, so we want people to do that. . “

He added: “Our motto here is to travel without fear, but to travel while you are aware of what is happening and to stay in touch.”

Uncertainty is hard

Do travelers have to rethink their travel plans in Europe because of the war in Ukraine?
Gotland Island in Sweden is a popular holiday destination, plain_textCredit: Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP via Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, some European tourism officials are worried about possible travel disruptions, another hurdle facing the besieged industry after two challenging years.

And in Prague, Czech Republic, the Tourism Board is focusing its summer marketing campaigns on domestic tourism and arrivals from other European countries, rather than the United States and Asia, the organization said in a statement shared with CNN.

Christian Tanzler, a spokesman for Visit Berlin in Germany, said that while Europeans are expected to travel as usual to European countries for their spring and summer holidays as long as the Ukraine crisis does not spread to other countries, the US market is still finding it. him. harder to sell.

Tanzler explained that before the pandemic, American tourists were the second largest group after the UK.

“No one knows if people will start canceling their bookings because of the current situation,” Tanzler added, noting that “this uncertainty is really difficult.”

Moreover, Tanzler noted that US-based travelers may not have accurate information about the current situation in Germany, which he said is “absolutely safe”.

But even for travelers familiar with Europe, the ghost of a possible nuclear war, or the aftermath of war-damaged nuclear reactors in Ukraine, could be an added source of fear.

Always prepare an emergency plan

Do travelers have to rethink their travel plans in Europe because of the war in Ukraine?
People walk in Piazza del Campo near Palazzo Comune on March 4, 2022 in Siena, Italy, plain_textCredit: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

And while some travelers are reviewing their travel plans to Europe, security and risk experts note that it is always a good practice to stay on top of current events, no matter where you are going.

They also stress the need for a solid plan in case things go differently, whether because of the coronavirus or a war.

Two years of pandemic flight cancellations and interruptions have proven that reliable travel insurance and flexible booking policies for air travel and accommodation are more important than ever.

It is important, once you have gathered information about where you are going, to know how to act in an emergency.

“You always have an emergency plan in place when you are traveling to a foreign city,” said Tim Henchel, co-founder and CEO of HotelPlanner, which supplies global hotel sales.

Pearson also advised travelers to share a copy of the itinerary, hotels, and flight schedules with friends or family at home. As well as regular checks, and basics like “How to make international calls while abroad”.

Travelers going to Poland or other countries accepting large numbers of refugees should be aware of the limitations on transport infrastructure and the availability of hotel rooms.

Travelers should also be careful and avoid conflicts with safety, especially due to the ongoing protests and demonstrations in popular European tourist destinations.

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