Advisors foresee little short-term impact as Europe borders close to Americans

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Santorini, Greece.
Santorini, Greece. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The European Union is poised to close its borders to Americans, but the travel agency community said the decision would have few near-term impacts on clients' travels.

"It's a concern, but we think it's going to be short-lived," said Chris Alestra, director of destination partnerships for Signature Travel Network.

For clients of Accent on Travel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., summer travel to Europe was already off the table, said owner Annette Stellhorn.  

"We weren't expecting travel for Europe this summer," she said. "When we look at the fall, we're very hopeful."

Similarly, Keith Waldon, founder and director of the Austin, Texas-based Departure Lounge, said he still believes fall travel to Europe is on the table.

Stellhorn said her agency has canceled hundreds of travelers' plans to visit Europe this year due to the coronavirus crisis. Nearly all opted to move their bookings to 2021, keeping the same itinerary.

"There is no one right now that's thinking, 'Oh, darn, they closed the borders and I was going to go next week,'" she said. "We don't have those travelers."

Alestra said she works closely with tourism boards and that all of them, including those in Europe, are anxious for their destinations to reopen.

During the pause in travel, Signature has been working with its destination partners to educate travel advisors.

"The U.S. is such an important market for all of the European countries, and so we're all just [saying] let's get through this, but when it's back and open we're going to be ready to sell," she said.

Many advisors have shifted to offering domestic trips to their clients, as well, a boon if Europe closes its borders, she said. She is also encouraged by the breadth of destination options travel advisors have to pivot to if European borders do, in fact, close.

Marc Kazlauskas, president of leisure sales and U.S. branch operations at Frosch Travel in New York, agreed that most clients who had Europe trips booked have moved them to next year. But there is already interest from clients who want to travel now, which will be impacted if Europe's borders close.

Kazlauskas does have concerns about the psychological effects a closure would have on U.S. travelers.

"The problem we have is that we need people making decisions based on facts, and we as the agency community have to be able to give them as much information as we can, help them assess the risk and then consult them on how best to travel," he said. "The problem is, things keep changing so dramatically. Facts keep changing so much that it's very disheartening to people who want to travel. People are ready to get out there." 

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