As U.K. law enforcement agencies keep security heightened and investigate the London Bridge and Manchester concert hall terrorist events, observers see no immediate impact to London tourism from the United States and elsewhere.
Laura Citron, chief executive of London & Partners, the city’s promotional agency, told City A.M. that she believes the capital's tourism industry will withstand the anxiety and video imagery of the two recent events.
“We are monitoring the situation closely. Anecdotally, there is no evidence that people are cancelling in swathes but we are waiting to see full impact,” she said.
At Allianz Global Assistance, spokesperson Daniel Durazo confirmed 100 cancellations for trips planned to the United Kingdom from the United States since the Manchester bombing as of Friday, June 9 – a number in line with traveler reactions from other terrorist events, he said.
“One or two hundred cancellations would not be a lot,” Durazo said. “We have had two events close together, but London travel is resilient. This is in line with our expectations and we haven’t reached a tipping point yet to forecast a downturn.”
Still, some local tourism experts believe the London Bridge, where 7 were killed and 48 injured, could see the number of tourists visiting London could plunge by almost a third.
“For our standard retail products, which is what travel agents sell, travelers scheduled to arrive 30 days from an event can cancel and make a claim on their travel insurance policy for prepaid and nonrefundable deposits,” Durazo said. “There were some London tourist attractions that were shut down, there is a change in the feeling of the city, where it is more tense, and you may not want to be there if you have travel insurance.”
Days after the attacks, some United Kingdom primary and secondary schools were cancelling trips to popular London attractions, including the Science Museum, Tower of London, British Museum and National Gallery. The schools cited disruption to public transport and the increased armed police presence.
One newspaper report said a French school was reconsidering its visit to London’s Science Museum, while a West London independent day school cancelled a Science Museum trip scheduled for Britain’s Election Day.
VisitBritain spokespersons, though, echo what London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been saying: “London is open for business.”
The public will notice a visible armed and unarmed police presence in London, especially in crowded places and in transport hubs, which should be reassuring for travelers and locals. Museums, theatres, restaurants, hotels, attractions and shops across London and Britain are open as usual and airports, ports and public transport are operating normally.
Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners, which runs VisitLondon.com, said: “Today, London is up and running as normal, and it is great to see people out enjoying our unbeatable array of museums, restaurants, shops and theatres. 700,000 Londoners rely on tourism for their livelihoods and visitors have never been more important or more welcome here.”
Barriers have been installed on London Bridge and, on Monday, three central London bridges - Westminster, Lambeth and Waterloo - had barriers put in place by the Metropolitan Police in a bid to stop vehicles from mounting the pavement.
At this stage it is not possible to predict the impact on the tourism industry but we do know that in the two months following the Westminster attack, travel agent bookings to London were up 6.7%, Citron noted.
Agents with whom TMR spoke reported no cancellations and continued to advise all travelers to buy travel insurance. Yet some have reported a slowdown in sales. Duff Pacifico of Tzell Travel Group, for example, acknowledged he has seen “a definite slump in bookings (for Europe),” although he is getting bookings to other destinations. But it is not as busy as he would expect at this time of year.
Camille Pepe Sperrazza from The World Awaits Travel LLC/Nexion said, “If I do hear some hesitancy, I usually tell them to ‘sleep on it’ so they feel sure as the majority of trips are nonrefundable.”
At Valerie Wilson Travel in New York, executive director for industry relations Dan Bechloss suggested that travel advisors avoid telling travelers that Europe is "safe," but also that it is not.
"Travel advisors can say how they personally feel; they can say, 'I would not hesitate to visit London right now.' But they can't definitively say that it is safe," Bechloss advised. The good news, though, is that the rebound in travel to destiinations after an incident of some kind "is much quicker than it used to be. It used to take travelers three months, six months, to rebound; now it's a matter of weeks."