US visitors wary of Ukraine threaten European travel recovery

US visitors wary of Ukraine threaten European travel recovery

Airlines and hoteliers have warned that the conflict in Ukraine is causing high-spending US travellers to hold off visiting Europe, slowing the industry’s long recovery from the pandemic.

Dermot Crowley, chief executive of the Irish hotel group Dalata, told the Financial Times that “concern” over the Russian invasion of Ukraine “may make North Americans nervous about coming to Europe”, while French hotel operator Accor said it expected bookings across all hotel groups in Europe to suffer.

A US airline official agreed, saying American tourists were likely to be put off visiting parts of the continent, particularly central or eastern Europe, citing the slowdown in US visitors travelling east during the first Gulf war.

Heathrow airport last week warned that “concerns from US travellers over war in Europe” was contributing to “huge uncertainty” about passenger numbers this year. Travel marketing company MMGY said 47 per cent of Americans planning trips to Europe had decided to “wait and see” how the situation in Ukraine unfolds.

Many industry executives say passengers from the US are particularly sensitive to travel near conflict zones, and the crisis in Ukraine has evoked memories of the 1990-1991 Gulf war when tourism from North America to Europe collapsed.

Flight booking data underline the travel executives’ fears. Bookings between the US and Europe fell 13 per cent week-on-week in the seven days following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to research firm ForwardKeys. Hopper, a travel app, also reported weakening demand for transatlantic flights.

This is an excerpt from an article by Alice Hancock and Philip Georgiadis, originally published by The Financial Times.

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