Not so long ago, when the subject of terrorism and its effects on international travel came up, we weren’t usually talking about Europe.
Unfortunately, the horrific Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris on Jan. 7 and the subsequent foiled attacks in Belgium, Germany and even the Vatican, have changed the conversation.
Not surprisingly, safety is especially concerning to family travelers, according to Adrien Glover, vice president of content for ItaliaRail. Glover presented her findings on travel safety to media and travel trend analysts at the recent TMS Family Travel Summit, held in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
“The truth is, bad things can happen anywhere. But if you look at statistics, you have a 1 in 20 million chance of ever being involved in a terrorist incident, [while] the chances of being hit by lightning are 1 in 126,000,” she said.
In other words, the issue isn’t just the reality of whether Europe is safe or not, but the perception.
After all, in the new normal of today’s world, no destination is risk proof, including those closer to home, such as Boston and Garland, Texas, both scenes of well-publicized terrorist attacks.
But with so many scary events happening “out there,” Glover acknowledged that some families may be spooked about international travel.
The good news is that they don’t seem to be spooked enough to stay home.
“There’s no stopping the allure of Europe,” she said, pointing out that despite the publicity surrounding terrorist attacks and sleeper cells, she hasn’t seen a corresponding drop in bookings at ItaliaRail.
“ItaliaRail is the largest foreign seller of train tickets in Italy, and we had all of two cancellations in the wake of the Paris attack,” she said.
She recommended that travel sellers promote personal stories that focus on ease, safety and travel deals, using social media, newsletters and personalized push marketing to get the word out.
She cited the brand new security checkpoint access gates in Italy’s top train stations – Roma Termini, Milano Centrale and Santa Maria Novella in Florence – as examples of measures recently put in place to assist tourists with peace of mind.
Discounts, such as half-off fares for kids under 15 on ItaliaRail trains, as well as kid-centric products and activities with rail passes, can also help tip the scales for some parents, she said.
It also can’t hurt to trumpet special events, such as the food-themed Milan Expo 2015, set to run all summer through Oct. 1, the Venice Biennale, on tap through Nov. 22, and the Holy Jubilee Year, which officially begins Dec. 8.
Of course, Glover acknowledged that no amount of deals and statistics will offset the concerns of truly timid travelers.
“There’s a universe of parenting styles, but I think adults who want their children to experience the broader world might go further afield for a family adventure,” she said.
She went on to quote Sir Richard Branson, saying: “More travel, not less, is the best way to defeat terrorism.”