Last updated: 01:40 PM ET, Mon June 29 2015

Tunisia Attack Deals Blow to European Travel, Has Little Impact in US

Destination & Tourism | David Cogswell | June 29, 2015

Tunisia Attack Deals Blow to European Travel, Has Little Impact in US

Photo via Twitter

Tourism itself was targeted in Tunisia during last week’s gruesome attack in which at least 38 people were killed by a gunman with possible ISIS connections who fired on them at a beach in the resort town of Sousse.

It was the second attack on tourists in Tunisia in recent months. In March an attack on the Bardo museum left at least 17 people dead.

According to Business Insider, TUI AG, which owns Thomson and First Choice in the UK, was hit hardest, with its stock price down 6 percent on Monday morning. Thomas Cook’s stock was also reported to be down 3 to 4 percent.

European airlines stocks also took a tumble. International Airline Group (IAG), the owner of British Airways and Iberian, was reported down 2.5 percent.  

European tour operators were reeling as cancellations mounted and they mobilized efforts to bring travelers back home.

The UK Foreign Office updated its listing for Tunisia and warned that further attacks were possible.  

In the midst of the horror, Tui Travel made the serious public relations blunder of holding tight to normal cancellation policies after one month, igniting a furious reaction that will damage the company far more than the attacks themselves could have.

London’s Independent reported that Tui was keeping normal cancellation policies in effect on bookings for August and beyond and denying customers the right to cancel in the U.K. At the same time, the company was paying refunds to its German customers.

Thomson and Thomas Cook canceled departures to Tunisia for the week and waived penalties for cancellation or switching destinations for the coming month.

Tui told its German customers they could cancel or switch without penalty on bookings scheduled through Sept. 15.

But while the attack was wreaking havoc on the travel industry in Europe, its effect in the U.S. was more subdued, practically nonexistent.

British holidaymakers travel in large numbers to Tunisia as a Mediterranean beach destination. The Independent reported estimates of 80,000 to 100,000 British travelers that were booked to visit Tunisia in the month August alone.

In the U.S., few operators offer Tunisia, and Americans in search of beach holidays are heading to the Caribbean, Mexico or Hawaii in great numbers, but not far beyond that.

“We have not been affected to date,” Robert Drumm, president of Alexander + Roberts told TravelPulse.

“In that neck of the woods we only offer Morocco and Egypt.”

And the relatively small number of Americans who do travel to the African Mediterranean countries are looking for cultural experiences and have little interest in beaches.

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