Last year, terrorist attacks eroded summer vacation travel from the United States to Europe. This year, such trips could be undermined by America’s own State Department. It has issued a “Europe Travel Alert” that runs from May 1 to September 1, the heart of the vacation season. Tourism in several large nations will be hurt by a drop off in the number of visitors.
In a bulletin titled, “The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued threat of terrorist attacks throughout Europe,” its experts wrote:
Recent, widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom demonstrate that the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe. While local governments continue counterterrorism operations, the Department nevertheless remains concerned about the potential for future terrorist attacks. U.S. citizens should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning.
Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets. In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports, and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks. U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance in these and similar locations, in particular during the upcoming summer travel season when large crowds may be common.
The effects of a decline in travel from the United States to Europe pose a modest risk to most countries. The greatest exception is the United Kingdom. It is the world’s eighth business travel destination and accepts over 36 million tourists each year. Over 3.8 million of those are from the United States, which puts America just behind Germany (4.6 million) and France (4.6 million).
Italy’s tourism would be modestly hurt by a drop of in visits from the United States. It gets 48 million visitors a year, fifth among all countries. Americans represent the second largest group of travelers at 4.5 million. It trails only Germany at 10.8 million.
France is the world’s top tourist destination by country. The risk of a slowdown in U.S. tourism would be only modest. It receives over 85 million visitors most years. Just over 3 million of those are from the United States. Many more visitors come from Germany (12.8 million), the United Kingdom (11.8 million) and Belgium (9.8 million).
Germany receives just under 35 million visitors each year, which makes it the seventh largest travel destination in the world. Of these visitors, 2.3 million are American, behind only The Netherlands at 4.2 million and Switzerland at 2.8 million.
For the second summer in the row, the European travel industry faces challenges to visits from America. This year, the State Department could make the problem worse than in 2016.