Travel

Travel advisors report mixed reaction from customers on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Travel advisors report mixed reaction from customers on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Travel advisers are reporting mixed responses from customers regarding their European vacations in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with some canceling and others keeping their plans intact.

Churchill & Turen, whose bookings in Europe account for 70% of the luxury agency’s total business, has not had a single cancellation related to the invasion, chief executive Richard Turen said.

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“Our customers understand that this is a contained military action and there is little or no fear that it will somehow impact traditional European tourist centres,” he said. -he declares.

“We are seeing continued strength and are now back to maintaining a new waiting list of customers,” he said. “Total bookings in Europe for 2022 were down just 16% compared to 2019. We believe this is a strong indication of a recovery in travel.”

Nonetheless, Turen said he believed the invasion would impact “foreign travelers in the mid-price and mid-price ranges” and those traveling independently.


Sunset view of Red Square in Moscow, Russia. (photo via Nikolai Antonov/Dreamstime)

“High-end customers will travel fearlessly visiting NATO countries and members of the European Union,” he said.

“In fact, we are seeing a lot more departures and sold-out tour departures than might have been anticipated. In our view, independent travel in Europe will not recover for another 24 months.

“There are just too many ‘what ifs’ associated with being alone on a continent at war.”

For Cal Cheney, owner of Bucket List Tours, the invasion is already having a negative impact on his business.

“Just when we seem to be coming out of COVID this is happening – and I have already lost three summer trips. Two of them were Baltic cruises which included St Petersburg, and one in Portugal/Spain,” he said.

“I’ve been to the Baltics and Russia, so I convinced my clients to go early, and I extended late and did a lot of work setting up hotels and excursions in Copenhagen and Stockholm, not to mention a lovely two day semi-private experience in St. Petersburg, so I just feel drained as I have to cancel everything now.

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Just like it was during the heat of the pandemic, Cheney said he’s “undoing things and doing the work twice, and don’t know if we’ll ever get any back.”

He noted that a client who had canceled the Portugal trip to Spain said, “she didn’t want to be in Europe if NATO was at war with Russia.”

“All I could do was say that Portugal was almost 2,000 miles away from the conflict,” he said.

When customers ask, “Is it safe?” Travel advisors recommended by Turen respond with “Compared to what?” »

“The United States ranks 122nd on the Global Index list of the safest countries in the world. This means that using 2021 statistics, there are 121 countries in the world that are safer than the United States,” he said.

“We do everything we can to make our customers aware that, given our traffic accident rate, one of the highest numbers of anti-vaxxers, and our readily available weapons, the United States United is a relatively dangerous place to travel compared to dozens and dozens. from other countries. »

Meanwhile at Acendas Travel, JoAnne Weeks, head of the agency holiday division at Acendas, said only a handful of European bookings had been cancelled.

“Ironically, our European requests started and doubled to where they were in January,” she said.

Rather than cancel, customers contacted Acendas for information.

“We have to stay on that common ground right now, just like we have for the past two years and give [clients] the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, and ultimately empower them to make the best decisions for themselves. »

She added: “Geography and education always come into play. People don’t realize the huge distance between where the hotspots are and where they plan to travel. This helps put things in perspective, allowing them to base their decision on facts. Like asking them if they would cancel a trip to Los Angeles if there was a war in New York.

For her part, owner Amy Daniels of Custom Design Travel, a subsidiary of Travel Experts, said that while she believes the invasion could have a negative impact on the 2022 European season, so far the dispute did not result in cancellations.

“I had one client who has a family vacation in Italy this summer and asked me if I had any reservations about them,” she said.

“I let them know that from now on I’m not doing it, but I will continue to monitor the situation. As always, the safety and well-being of our customers is our top priority.