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Vacationers and firms play down effect on travel
Sacramento Bee


July 08, 2005

The London bombings sent shivers through a travel industry still recovering from the post-9/11 slump, but the impact on vacationers is expected to be short-term.

Attitudes have changed since the New York and Pentagon terrorist attacks, travelers and industry professionals say. And that means more travelers are staying the course rather than backing off out of fear.

"I'm certainly not going to change my plans. I've never been there, but I'm going - and I'm planning to take the Underground when I'm there," said Athena Roussos, a Sacramento, Calif., lawyer who has a trip to London planned for October.

"Sure, I'll be a little more alert to my surroundings," she added, "but I'm not going to allow these events to change my plans. You can't plan your life around thinking that something might happen."

Several travelers said they had no intention of changing their plans, and they didn't think twice about flying.

There was a hesitation by Christine Basua, 53, a Santa Paula, Calif., social worker, who had flown to Sacramento for a daylong conference Thursday. At 4 a.m. she flipped on CNN and watched the London bombing reports unfold with her daughter. "My daughter thought, 'Well, if you don't want to go, Mom, don't go.' I said, 'I'm going.' " She did pack along extra money in the event she couldn't fly out of Sacramento.

About 2.7 million Americans visited London last year, according to Visit London, a marketing group. A record was expected to be set this year, despite rising airfares and an anemic dollar. Tourism officials there declined to speculate what impact the bombings might have on the visitor economy.

But U.S. travel agents reported not a blip from their clients.

"We haven't had anybody call yet," said Judy Smith, manager of Davisville Travel in Davis, Calif. "Things like this make people twitchy; I would imagine some will want to put off travel for a while, to London and to Europe in general. But I wouldn't discourage anyone." Plus, she observes, "There may be some good travel deals out there after this is over."

Bruce McIndoe, president of iJet Travel Risk Management, a security consulting firm in Washington, offers another perspective: "As horrific as it is, you're still thousands of times more likely to die driving your automobile than ever being impacted by these kinds of events."

The bombings will have an impact on London visitors over the next few weeks, he said, "but more from a transportation hassle."

The security expert notes that, in the history of terrorist bombings, "We've never had a one-two punch. They (bombings) take months to prepare. It's not had a pattern where there is immediate follow-on."

Seasoned travelers add that London, which was a target of the Irish Republican Army, has tough security standards.

"They've always had problems, and they've always been able to handle it," said Dr. Beverly Myers, a Kaiser Permanente pathologist and avid traveler who visited England earlier this year. "I'm certainly not going to stay away from London. I think it's important to use common sense: You can't stay hiding under your bed your whole life. Remember, we had a bombing here, in Oklahoma City. There are no guarantees."

Some airlines and online booking agencies have announced they will waive or relax cancellation penalties for skittish travelers who want to postpone their trips. "We're taking a look at people who have booked travel to London. If they're uncomfortable, we're going to relax our change and cancellation fees," said Joel Frey, spokesman for

Frey said the agency hadn't seen a big spike in call volumes by midday Thursday. "Some people will want to make changes, but I don't think we'll see a major decline in travel. ... We'll maybe see a blip."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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