Despite State Dept. Europe Alert, Agents See Little Cause For Alarm

by Marilee Crocker
Despite State Dept. Europe Alert, Agents See Little Cause For Alarm

Travel agents said they didn’t expect the latest State Department alert for Europe to have much impact. Photo: Cjh1452000


Travel agents said they were not particularly alarmed by the latest State Department travel advisory for Europe. Nor do they expect most Europe-bound clients to alter their travel plans.

Agents said clients already were aware of recent events in Europe, so while there is a sense of caution, most are going anyway. The general nature of the State Dept. alert also made many agents disinclined to rush to notify clients.

Instead, agents will continue to do what they always do––recommending travel insurance, advising clients to be aware of their surroundings when traveling, calming fears should they arise and being on call when clients’ travels are disrupted by weather, terrorism or other unexpected events.

Jim Ehehalt, owner of Brookside Travel in Northville, MI, said he alerts clients when there are specific warnings or incidents, but not necessarily in the case of a general alert like this week’s. “We will address it if they ask about it,” he said, adding, “As agents, we need to advise them if we’re aware of major warnings. If something would be of danger to them, that’s our duty.”

Sandie Preuss of eTravel Unlimited in Centennial, CO, has been urging clients traveling out of country to sign up for the State Dept.’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for the last 20 years. “There’s just too many things that go on. It could be a volcano that erupts or weather. It doesn’t have to be guns.”

In addition, she said, “when we give clients their booking documents, we always tell them to be on the alert, to be aware of their surroundings. That’s what I would want someone to do for me.”

Preuss’ response to a State Dept. advisory depends on its nature. “If they’re saying don’t travel, that’s one thing. If it’s a major alert, like the Paris shootings, we go through our database of clients who are traveling at that particular time. We can always get a hold of them.”

Less than 24 hours after the travel alert was issued, Anthea Gilchrist, owner of Seamless Travel in Plano, TX, received a call from a customer wanting to go to France in July. Overall, Europe bookings for her high-end FIT clientele are up this year, she said.

“I don’t hear much concern from my customers,” said Gilchrist. “I talk to my clients every day, the relationship is there, so they have the opportunity to ask that question.”

Gilchrist said she will tell clients already booked for Europe about the alert. “If they come back with a concern, we will discuss it,” and she will rebook any client who feels uncomfortable going.

Lynne Barker  of Travel Dreams in Marlton, NJ, said that while her clients may express some caution about Europe in the current climate, most are not changing their travel plans. “They may hesitate, they may think about it a little more, but the desire to travel outweighs the fear. They’re still booking their trips. Clients are still traveling by train. They still fly into major airports.”

In fact, she said, this year’s lower airfares to Europe are spurring bookings. “They’ve seen some good fares for this summer and they’ve jumped on it.”

Barker, who plans to continue to recommend Europe, did have one couple who had decided to skip Paris well before this week’s State Dept. alert. “Instead of spending several nights in Paris, they said let’s fly into Paris and then go somewhere else like Normandy––just to be more cautious.”

Jenny Sillery, a personal travel planner with Pavlus Travel in Albuquerque, NM, said occasionally a client will voice some uncertainty. “I tell them that if you want to go, go–– stuff can happen anywhere. If you’re too nervous don’t go. For the most part people just need that reassurance,” said Sillery, who has quite a few bookings for Europe this summer.

Both Barker and Sillery routinely recommend travel insurance. “That’s their peace of mind,” Barker said.

Louise Evans, of My Escape Vacation Travel in Phoenix, AZ, was less sanguine about travel to Europe. She concentrates most of her sales in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Bahamas and the U.S., and said that her attempts to venture into the Europe market have nearly always run into problems due to a climate of uncertainty or fears about terrorism.

For example, she said, “this year I was promoting a Barcelona cruise in October. A lady asked me to put it together for her.” Then in February the client backed out saying she didn’t think it was the best time to go.

Evans herself is hesitant about visiting Europe. “I would like to go, but I don’t want to go anywhere where they are targeting Americans.”

One agent, who asked not to be quoted by name, said that in issuing the travel alert the government was simply doing its due diligence. It would be counterproductive to agents’ business to advise clients of a generalized advisory like the Europe alert. Some people do ask about them, he said. “We try to stay in the middle.”

  0
  0
Tip of the Day

I do think there are possibilities for traveler advisors to make money doing domestic trips. I charge a planning fee for my time and expertise, and then book commissionable hotels and activities that meet the client’s needs.

Terri Weeks

Daily Top List

Best Resorts in Montana

1. The Resort at Paws Up

2. Blue Damsel Lodge on Rock Creek

3. Triple Creek Ranch

4. The Ranch at Rock Creek

5. Rainbow Ranch Lodge

Source: The Crazy Tourist

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=46d9854c-8d33-e911-b4aa-782bcb66a2f2

Give a Heads-Up, Get a Leg-Up in Business

Harness your knowledge, share your tips, and leave your clients wondering what else you know that they don’t.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Eurail Pass Hits 60 Years
Eurail Pass Hits 60 Years

The European rail system is offering price reductions this year and travels to more countries than ever.

How Tour Operators are Combating Overtourism
How Tour Operators are Combating Overtourism

Off-peak season discounts and itineraries to lesser-known destinations in popular countries are helping to spread out tourist crowds over the course of the year.

Heritage Tours Launches Spotlight Series of ‘Celebrity Life’ Tours
Heritage Tours Launches Spotlight Series of ‘Celebrity Life’ Tours

A specialist in private travel arrangements unleashes its destination management skills on immersive small group tours.

International Women’s Day: Two Tour Operators Striving for Change
International Women’s Day: Two Tour Operators Striving for Change

The initiatives give women who live in challenged regions the training and opportunities to work, make money, and contribute to their local communities.

Globus Family Launches ‘Your Way’ Campaign to Promote Product Synergy
Globus Family Launches ‘Your Way’ Campaign to Promote Product Synergy

The classic tour operator is making it easier to combine its various travel styles and products into a single booking.

Pleasant Holidays Adds New Ship from American Queen
Pleasant Holidays Adds New Ship from American Queen

The veteran vacation packager is now offering all four paddlewheel riverboats of the American Queen Steamboat Company.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: The Northern Lights of Finland