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Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008.

Economy, Terrorism Deterring Holiday Travel Overseas

December 03, 2008 11:29 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Financial crises and violent incidents worldwide are affecting international travel just in time for the holidays—traditionally the biggest season of the year for the tourism industry.

International Air Travel, Hotel Occupancy Down

Major cities around the globe are seeing falling rates of international air travel and hotel occupancy this fall, the Associated Press reports.

The International Air Transport Association reported that passenger traffic fell 1.3 percent in October compared with the same month in 2007, and 2.9 percent in September. In addition, major cities reported low hotel occupancy rates, such as Rome, which saw a 17.5 percent decline in hotel occupancy in October compared to the same month last year.

With several countries in dire financial straits, the numbers are not expected to improve as we get deeper into what is normally the busiest travel season of the year.

“I think it’s going to be a very cold winter. And I’m not a weatherman,” said Calyon Securities airline analyst Ray Neidl to MSNBC.

Worldwide economic troubles are a major factor in the drop as potential travelers cancel trips they can no longer afford, and some in the travel industry have expressed concern that unrest in previously popular destinations like India and Thailand could lead to a further decline in tourism.

But not all hope is lost for the travel industry, or the American consumer.

As the travel industry braces itself for a poor holiday season, savvy shoppers may be able to score bargains when it comes to airfare, hotel stays and cruise tickets as travel operators resort to last-minute deals.

The New York Times reported in November that Britain is hoping to lure American tourists looking for bargains this fall, as the pound is now worth $1.54, its lowest level in six years against the dollar. The situation is a reversal of last year, when American stores saw an influx of British tourists as the dollar fell to its weakest level against the pound in almost three decades.

But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution warns that booking airline tickets could be a challenge as the world’s airlines are offering 451,000 fewer flights this winter, leaving 46.3 million fewer seats available. “They may be able to find a good deal on a hotel in the Bahamas, but they may not get a flight there,” said Tony Maupin of Maupin Travel in Raleigh to the Journal-Constitution.

Related Topic: Terrorism, protests hamper tourism

Even those who can afford to make the trip may choose to avoid Mumbai, Bangkok and other unstable areas as overseas destinations. The Guardian says that the three-day siege in Mumbai that killed nearly 200 people last week could “spell disaster for tourism” in the country, where the economy is already suffering from internal problems.

Americans should take note that the U.S. State Department recently issued warnings against travel to India.

But industry experts predict that the effect of the attacks on India’s trade and hospitality industry will probably be short-lived. “The situation is almost like 9/11,” Anil Bhandari, former chairman-cum-managing director of the Indian Tourism Development Corp (ITDC), said to Indo Asian News Service. “Obviously, people will not like to travel. But domestic travellers will be around,” he said. “Cancellations of overseas bookings have already started. The fate of travel trade and hospitality business now depends on how we send the message across that everything is normal,” Bhandari said.

American authorities also warn against travel to Thailand, which has recently seen months of antigovernment protests. Demonstrators shut down two airports in Bangkok this weekend, stranding tourists and leaving some observers concerned that the country’s usually booming tourism industry will take a severe hit.

Nepal, which has seen violent crime in its capital and other large cities, and Pakistan, which has the risk of terrorist activity by Al-Qaida, the Taliban and sectarian groups, are also on the U.S. State Department’s list of travel advisories.

Reference: Budget Travel guide


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