Travel Agents To Clients Re London: 'Channel Winston Churchill, Keep Calm And Carry On'

by Maria Lisella

In spite of the Westminster attack this week, well-traveled clients are not inclined to stay home or even change their travel. Instead they are citing the words used in a motivational poster to raise the morale of the British public during World War II.

On the cusp of high season, the death toll in London reached five, and police were raiding a Birmingham property ostensibly linked to the attack on Westminster Bridge. But agents say London and Paris, which also has been hit with violent incidents, are among the most resilient of cities. And so too are American travelers.

London is the top destination for the historically-themed tours of Florida-based Kristine Hughes Patrone, owner of Number One London Tours. “My clients see this incident in context – this is neither the first nor the last time a lone wolf act of terrorism is likely to take place – but it is not changing their travel plans,” she said.

Jack Bloch of JB’s World Travel Consultants in New York said, “Savvy travelers know to be aware of their surroundings at all times no matter where they go, and are not cancelling their plans because people are trying to disrupt the world of travel.”

London still has 25 flights a day from the United States, and prices are stable.

Westminster Bridge is a top tourist destination over the River Thames, with nearby must-see sights such as the London Eye, Parliament Square, the Houses of Parliament and of Lords, Big Ben, Whitehall, the Jewel Tower, and St. Margaret’s Church, the Sea Life London Aquarium, and the Horse Guards Parade are all within a five-minute walk of the sight of the attack. Trafalgar Square is a mere nine-minute stroll from the sight.

Bloch reported hotels have been amiable about cancellation fees and he won’t be telling people to stay home: “Everything is safe and unsafe – from terrorist attacks to earthquakes,” he offered.

The London Marriott County Hall Hotel, in the immediate vicinity of Westminster Bridge, is waiving cancellation fees for guests holding existing reservations until March 27.

Donna Olivia, public relations manager for Marriott Europe, said, “Given the ongoing situation, we are sensitive to the potential impact on our guests.  As such, The London Marriott County Hall Hotel has been assisting the police and emergency services with their operation. At this time, all of our guests and employees have been accounted for and the hotel is operating with heightened security.”

Sarah Ahmed, director of sales and marketing at Royal Lancaster London, said: “As yet and so far we have seen no impact on visitors or our booking levels. As a central London hotel we are remaining extra vigilant at all times.”

For Americans, London is a perennial favorite. In 2016 the United Kingdom received a record 37.3 million inbound visits, up 3% over 2015 with visitors spending £22.2 billion, matching 2015’s record spend.

Additionally, inbound visits to friends and relatives saw strong growth throughout 2016 with a record-breaking 11.5 million visits, up 10% on 2015. The figures show strong growth in 2016 from North America, Canada and the U.S., with 4.3 million for an increase of 7% over 2015.

Comparing growth during the last six years shows there were 7.5 million more visits in 2016 than 2010, an increase of 25%.

A VisitBritain spokesperson said: "As the Prime Minister has made clear, London is open for business and Britain continues to offer a warm welcome to the millions of visitors from around the globe who come to enjoy the world-class attractions our capital city, nations and regions have to offer."

Tourism is worth £127 or $159 billion annually to the U.K. economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.

Says Hughes Patrone, “Two days ago I rented a flat on Kings Road for June, and I have no plans to cancel or change my reservation. No one is going to keep me from enjoying my favorite city in the world.”

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