Security fears overshadow world’s biggest travel fair – Reuters

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* Bookings down for Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt

* Concern over ‘ripple effect’ from Paris attacks

* Beneficiaries include Spain, Italy, N.America, Caribbean

By Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan

BERLIN, March 10 Security fears are on
everybody’s lips at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin this
year as a battered tourist industry seeks to reassure travellers
and tour operators that they need not shy away from booking
summer holidays for this year.

Attacks in tourist hotspots like a Tunisian beach resort and
the city of Paris over the past year have rattled travellers’
confidence, sending bookings for Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt
plummeting and heralding a slowdown in demand for international

“People have money to spend, but there’s a strong negative
impact from the geopolitical situation. People fear attacks,”
Roy Scheerder, commercial director at low cost Dutch airline
Transavia, told Reuters at ITB.

Airlines, tour operators, hoteliers and travel search
companies at the fair said they had seen more caution than usual
in bookings at the start of the year, often a popular time for
people to book trips.

A survey by consultancy IPK International projected that
growth in the number of international trips taken would slow to
3 percent this year, down from 4.6 percent in 2015.

Rolf Freitag, founder of IPK, said security fears had
knocked off about 1.5 percentage points from the expected growth
this year. Of 50,000 people in 42 countries surveyed at the
start of February, 15 percent said they would either not travel
or holiday in their home country this year.

Hotel groups like Marriott International and Best
Western expressed concern over tourist bookings for Paris after
November’s attacks on the French capital, which may have a
knock-on effect on other destinations.

“It has a ripple effect. If you think about someone
travelling from the United States to Paris, Paris was not the
only city they would visit, they would also go to other parts of
France or Europe, and that has been curtailed,” Best Western CEO
David Kong told Reuters.

The beneficiaries are destinations perceived to carry a
smaller risk of becoming the target of attacks.

“The really hot markets are anywhere that’s safe. Spain is
on fire for this summer. Italy is very strong,” Darren Huston,
chief executive of Priceline Group and its subsidiary, told Reuters.

Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling, for instance, has
added more capacity to Spanish destinations from Germany, the
Netherlands and Switzerland to keep up with demand, though it
highlighted that hotel space was running out.

Destinations in North America and the Caribbean are seeing
increased demand, while search firm Kayak said Germans were more
interested in hotels in their own country this year.

Some in the industry are clinging to hope that tourists will
still travel this summer but are holding off on firm bookings
longer than usual due to the uncertain security outlook.

“Past experience has shown us that a country that is serious
about tourism and has built an infrastructure always bounces
back,” Taleb Rifai, the head of the United Nations World Tourism
Organization (UNWTO), told Reuters in an interview.

“Look at Egypt. It has been up and down for the last 10
years. Every time it comes back stronger than before,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen and Tina Bellon;
Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Security fears overshadow world’s biggest travel fair – Reuters