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Europe

Gloomy Skies for European Travel?

At present, jittery tourists are postponing long-haul trips. Despite the momentary slump in European travel, the European Commission sounds an upbeat note that travel will increase if no more terrorist attacks occur.

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Airports are less full these days

The number of tourists from Japan, the US and the Middle East travelling to Europe has fallen by 30 per cent since the September 11 attacks, according to a new European Commission study.

Ireland and the UK have registered even higher losses.

Europe's capitals are especially hard hit by the fall in tourists and business travellers. Hotel occupancy rates in European cities are down by 20 – 30 per cent since the New York attacks. Air ticket sales are falling, and travel agents are feeling the pinch.

Two million tourism enterprises in the European Union account for around 5 per cent of both GDP and employment – that is around 8 million jobs.

Outbound travel

The same goes for outbound EU travel. According to the study, there is already a serious fall-off in European travelling to destinations outside Europe.

The drop off in travellers is also having a serious effect on European airlines and Europe's big tour operators.

Evidence points to a change in the behaviour of the European traveller, the report says: Travellers are now preferring shorter trips to more traditional destinations overseas and package holidays. This could lead to a positive side-effect: an increase in domestic travel.

Despite the low numbers, the report shows optimism that the European tourism sector will recover: "It may take some time for traveller's fears to be overcome. However, this effect should not be significant in the longer term".

In a reassuring tone, the European Commission expresses hopes in the report that short-term cuts in consumers' tourism expenditure could lead to reallocation to other goods and services.

However, the situation is not to be taken lightly: The EU tourism industry accounts for around 12 per cent of the 15 member states' GDP and aroud 20 million jobs.

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