TORONTO — As reported yesterday in Travelweek, flight bookings to Europe have so far not been severely impacted by the crisis in Ukraine, with the biggest declines generally limited to destinations closest to the conflict.
Now, travel agents are supporting these findings, telling Travelweek that, for the most part, bookings remain intact, with little to no cancellations.
Here’s what they had to say:
Valerie Murphy, Vision Travel Cambridge, Cambridge, ON
“I have not personally had any cancellations, but I have had people say they want to hold off on confirming a booking. Clients have also said they expect this crisis to be over soon.
“I have been suggesting insurance, for sure, but most of the clients I am dealing with are planning to go ahead with travel after not being able to get to Europe for two years. They are not letting this hold them back. Most clients seem to be of the opinion that with all the sanctions, Russia cannot sustain this much longer.”
Gary Rams, Soft Adventure Specialist, Associated with Crowfoot Travel Solutions, Calgary, AB
“I haven’t had many cancellations, however, there have been many changes. Clients want to stay away from countries near Ukraine. I’ve also had some cruises and suppliers who have stopped going into Russia, and because Russia was the main stop I had to once again change the destinations. After the last few years, I am only booking with suppliers who have given us some flexibility to change or cancel without hassle. At this time, agents have a little more knowledge on who we want to do business with.
“My advice would be to sit and wait if clients want to visit countries like Poland. I have clients who have 3-4 trips in mind, and for the ones who have countries in Europe I’m saying ‘let’s put that one at the end of the list.’ Anywhere else in Europe I’m saying let’s do it now. Between fuel prices going up, high demand for travel and a host of other challenges, if Europe is a must I would not wait.”
Sonia Kotzen, Travel Advisor, TRAVELONLY, Toronto, ON
“There was a concern about my clients wanting to go to Portugal this spring. I assured them that they are not flying anywhere near Russia or the Ukraine border, and if there was any danger in their flight departure and return, the airlines wouldn’t fly in a conflicted area.
“Europe is open and they want tourists. COVID-19 restrictions mostly have been dropped and the amount of testing is more acceptable. Due to the conflict, rates are still good but the cost of flights have gone up. Book as soon as you can because for two years we weren’t allowed to go anywhere.”
Pamela McLeod CTC, Senior Travel Agent, CAA Travel South Central Ontario
“I have only a handful of people booked on large trips and they are still going to remain booked. There has been a lot of Europe inquiries for airfare, even though there is a crisis. To keep everyone safe and happy, I have only booked refundable air and fully refundable packages that have cancel-for-any-reason insurance.
“I always recommend what I would do myself. If I hear hesitation in my clients’ voices, I tell them that it might be good to wait and see, or book for next year. If they are fully aware and comfortable with travel, I recommend only fully refundable tickets and travel bookings with flexibility to make changes.”
Annie Benayoun, Senior Travel Specialist, Business, Groups and Incentives, Direct Travel (Vision Travel), Montreal, QC
“So far, so good. I have three groups leaving in April and May to Prague, Budapest and Spain, The ones for Prague and Budapest wanted to cancel but they were not offered the option of cancelling without penalty, neither by the airline or local suppliers, as things continue to operate normally for now.
“We are carefully monitoring the situation day by day and we will advise on how the events evolve, impacting their destination.”
Marianne Vogel, Just for You Travel & Consulting, Dundas, ON
“My clients feel okay to go to other countries, even Europe, but are concerned about happenings possibly later in the year. I will only send someone with a trusted supplier right now to places deemed safe, and would suggest they not book something themselves and check with a travel professional who is keeping their finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
“Suppliers have had lots of practice over the last few years regarding refunds and travel credits. Thankfully, I don’t have anyone yet that requires this service as most of my trips are in the Italy, Greece and Netherlands corridor, which seems relatively safe for now.”
Joanne Saab, Travel Advisor, Curated Travel, Ancaster, ON
“I had multiple bookings for Baltic cruises this summer. Some clients unfortunately cancelled while others changed their sailings with alternate itineraries. My other European bookings for this summer remain intact so far, but clients are starting to inquire about the safety of travelling to Europe this summer. Luckily, because cruise lines had pushed their final payment daes to 60 days prior to sailing due to the Omicron variant, it was easy for clients to make changes for June and July sailings as they had not yet entered penalty.
“Right now, I continue to advise my clients that it’s safe to travel to many countries in the EU and the Mediterranean, but that we continue to monitor the situation. As always, it’s important for clients to protect their investment and purchase travel insurance – preferably with a cancel for any reason clause – that will allow them to cancel should the need arise.”