Last updated: 12:11 PM ET, Thu January 14 2016

Effect of Istanbul Attack on Travel Remains Minimal

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | January 13, 2016

Effect of Istanbul Attack on Travel Remains Minimal

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Add Istanbul to the growing list of places where terrorist attacks have taken place recently. Attacks seem to be happening with greater frequency and closer to places where Americans travel. So what is the effect on tourism?

On the morning of Jan. 13 Istanbul was one of the top stories on Google News. By early afternoon it had dropped off the list altogether. Have violent incidents become so common now that they barely register?

While the individual incidents may have become so numerous that they are starting to blur together, the frequency of attacks may be having some effect on the travel industry.

READ MORE: Tourists Killed in Terrorist Attack on Istanbul’s Historic District

“Although we have no product to Turkey at this point, I can tell you that international travel has taken a downward turn for us,” said John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours. “It is not so much people canceling existing reservations but fewer new reservations are coming in compared to the same period last year.”

Asked whether the effect had been mild or steep, Stachnik said, “I put it somewhere between mild and steep, leaning towards steep.”

The effects of terrorist attacks seem to change as fast as the incidents themselves come and go.

“Turkey bookings are down,” said Ronen Paldi, president of Ya'lla Tours USA. “And they got worst last year after previous terrorist attacks and the downing of the Russian plane, but the industry is very resilient and everyone is looking ahead.”

Not only are bookings for Turkey down for Ya’lla, but there have also been some cancellations.

“We lost one pilgrimage group that got very scared after the attacks in Paris,” said Paldi. “And we have several other Pilgrimages that are continuing with their plans and will travel in the next few weeks. There are some who will not travel to Los Angeles after the San Bernardino attack; those are scared of their own shadow.”

READ MORE: Why You Should Still Visit Paris This Winter

Most of Ya’lla’s customers however, are not changing their behavior. “There are others that realize that since 9/11 our travel world has changed, and many countries were subjected to terrorist attacks: European countries, Russia, India and so many others countries. So, what? Are we not going to travel?”

Overall it seems that most international travelers have learned to take the news of terrorist incidents in stride, and do not let them greatly hamper their activities.

Bob Drumm, president of Alexander + Roberts, said the company’s clientele is weathering the storm well. The company booked a group to Turkey on the day of the attack in Istanbul.

“We booked a custom party of four to Istanbul and beyond in Turkey yesterday, the day of the bombing,” said Drumm. “Many veteran international travelers seem to have a sophisticated perspective on these terrorist attacks, understanding that they can happen anywhere.

“While we don’t expect travel to Turkey to be especially robust in 2016, we know that private travel will continue. Our Turkish-born guides know how to handle upscale Americans at times of stress in their society.”

Once again, operators are in a wait-and-see mode as to what the effect of the Istanbul incident might be.

"We did not have any Globus family of brands travelers in Istanbul at the time of the bombing," said Steve Born, vice president of marketing for the Globus family of brands, "and it’s too early to tell what impact that situation might have on Istanbul travel in the future."

Born downplayed the possibility of the incident having much effect on the company's bookings going forward.

"The threat of terrorism is our not-so-new reality - whether we’re traveling or staying at home," he said. "When travelers choose companies like the Globus family of brands, with operations teams on-the–ground in each city and destination, they know they are in good hands." 

While the specific attack in Istanbul may not be having a large effect in itself, the increased frequency of attacks and their proximity to tourist areas may be having an effect on tourism in Europe overall.

“The reality is that travel to Europe has been highly affected by the recent acts of terrorism, and this one in Istanbul will only increase the fear to travel to Europe and in particular to Turkey," said Gianni Miradoli, CEO of Central Holidays.

"We see a slow pace in bookings to Europe and even cancellations and we do not believe that this year will be a great year for the destination in general. If we add to the current scenario the upcoming US Presidential elections -- which has historically had a slowing effect on the booking process -– we do not believe 2016 will be remembered as a 'good' year for the region, at least the first part of the year.  We are hopeful looking towards the latter part of the year to see a possible recovery if the situation on the security and safety side improves."

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