Trade reports consumer concern about travel following Iran attack

Tour operators and travel agents have reported a small number of calls from concerned clients following heightened tensions in the Middle East as they keep a watching brief on the situation.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated travel information for almost 20 countries in the region, including Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, with news of Iran’s drone attack on Israel at the weekend, but did not change existing travel advice.

Some in the trade blamed media misreporting on the updated FCDO advice for fuelling panic among holidaymakers due to travel to destinations including Egypt and Turkey.

Peter Kearns, executive director of Egypt specialist operator Red Sea Holidays, said reports suggesting a change in travel advice were “not helpful”.

He said: “It’s not fact and it creates confusion. A few agents have rung up because of this misleading information.

“Travel agents have a difficult enough job as it is. Like everyone, we’re deeply concerned about what is going on but it isn’t affecting our sales and it’s business as usual.”

Seaside Travel brand manager Richard Lowrey-Heywood said: “One of our nine shops had customers asking if it was still safe to go to Turkey. We reassured them the Foreign Office would not let tour operators travel if it was not safe. It’s about having the confidence to let clients know nothing has changed.”

Oasis Travel managing director Sandra Corkin also noted queries from clients due to fly via the Middle East. “The only worry is if people cut their losses for holidays later in the year depending on what happens, but it’s too early to tell,” she said.

Ashley Quint, TravelTime World director, said any escalation could risk a sales downturn, even for destinations not directly affected.

“It’s the thought of being on holiday in a country nearby,” he said.

Travel Stop owner Bridget Keevil agreed: “It can’t not have an impact. A few months ago we had a client concerned about a Croatia holiday [because of the war in Israel]; the ripples go far and wide.”

Companies including Jet2 and Tui said they were operating as normal but closely monitoring events.

However, EasyJet yesterday cancelled all flights to Tel Aviv until October 27 “as a result of the continued evolving situation in Israel”.

The Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “This is a developing situation that has the potential to escalate quickly, so we’ll be keeping a very close eye on developments over the coming days.”

Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson stressed: “It’s too early to say if the weekend’s events will have a lasting impact on confidence. This is a popular time to travel to the likes of Dubai, so we’re making sure our teams have access to the right information sources to share with customers who may have questions.”

Sunvil chairman Noel Josephides said: “There is a sense people are waiting to see what Israel’s reaction is.”

Adventure specialist Intrepid said the conflict had already affected its sales to the region, with Egypt and Jordan bookings “significantly down” on last year. The latest escalation has led to a “small number” of calls from clients booked to travel to Jordan.

“We’re keeping a close eye on the situation and taking the advice of our local teams, authorities and government advisories,” said UK general manager Hazel McGuire, adding: “If customers no longer wish to travel, we’re being flexible with our booking conditions.”

She urged agents to continue to support Egypt and Jordan. “Both countries are open for tourism as normal and many local people are reliant on it for their income.  Ultimately, we hope to see a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the near future,” she said.

Cyplon Holidays managing director Harry Hajipapas said new enquiries for Cyprus, Egypt and Morocco holidays had come to a “standstill” as a result of Iran’s attack.

“We have not had calls to cancel bookings but there are no new enquiries. People are scared to travel,” he said, adding that sales to Cyprus had halted because people could see the destination on the map in news reports and the fact RAF bases were stationed on the island.

He added that “sensationalised and misleading” news reports had made consumers nervous about booking holidays anywhere. “It’s dampened sales generally,” he said.

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