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Holiday travel peaks in Europe despite security warnings

Holiday travel peaks in Europe despite security warnings

Wednesday, December 20, 2023, 15:48 GMT+7
Holiday travel peaks in Europe despite security warnings
People stroll past Christmas lights and decorations at the outdoor Christmas market at Humboldt Forum in central Berlin, Germany, December 11, 2023. Photo: Reuters

Travel within Europe in the busy holiday season is exceeding 2022 levels, despite security warnings from authorities around Europe as consumers remain determined to enjoy holidays, prolonging the post-pandemic travel boom.

Christmas markets and popular tourist sites in cities such as Munich and Paris have been bustling lately, albeit with strong security presences, as holiday travel within the European Union and including Britain was set to climb 22% above 2022 levels, according to travel data firm ForwardKeys.

The spike has been driven by continued post-pandemic demand, executives and analysts said, with some people only travelling to see their families for Christmas this year for the first time since the pandemic.

But security warnings remain in the back of tourists' minds. In late November, European security officials warned of a growing risk of attacks tied to the Israel-Hamas war, with the biggest threat from potential "lone wolf" assailants.

Two Islamist militant attacks in France and Belgium in October killed three people, and these two countries, Austria, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have raised their terrorism threat alert levels. Italy has reimposed border controls with Slovenia, citing the risk of militants entering the country.

There was a slight spike in ticket cancellations over the Christmas period between Dec. 21 and 31, ForwardKeys said, from 2.4% to 3% since Nov. 24.

"Although this number is small, this could be an impact of the terrorism warning sent throughout Europe since the start of the recent conflict in Israel," said Juan Gomez, an analyst at ForwardKeys.

Travel continues

But tourists continued to swarm popular destinations, displaying an increased trust in the security apparatus in place across European hubs.

"I feel very safe and very conscious of the state of the world. And it's certainly something I think about every day, both conflicts in Europe, conflicts in the Middle East," said Gwen Fitzgerald, who visited a Christmas market in Munich this week from Boston.

"But I also really am desperate for joy at the same time."

Christmas arrivals to places such as Italy, Austria and Sweden have also grown by 25% or more year-on-year.

Tourists said that, with the rise in warnings in recent years and the reinforced security around Europe tied to them, there was more of a sense of calm and they felt comfortable not calling off their travel plans.

"When we are here and we stay just one day in the downtown, we see a lot of police and security, we feel safe," said Danny Sanchez, a tourist from Villareal, Spain, visiting the Munich market.



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