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Will summer travel be affected by the Ukraine invasion? We asked the experts

With the world’s eyes on Ukraine, it’s not surprising that travel firms have seen a slowdown in sales for the first time this year.

Travel agents are reporting a “nervousness” from customers, according to Travel Weekly. Travellers are hesitant about where and when they choose to travel. But the extent of the damage to travel businesses will only become clear around Easter, when summer holiday bookings traditionally peak.

“The conflict could add much pressure to an already challenging economic environment and weigh on travel demand in 2022,” the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) tells Euronews Travel. The recent spike in oil prices and its adverse effect on economies, “could translate into higher transport and accommodation prices, supply shortages, and threaten consumer demand and investment plans.”

Lost holidays are hardly the worst of the crisis, but for countries like Cyprus and the Seychelles where tourism is one of the key economic pillars, the impact on peoples’ livelihoods is a real cause for concern – especially for the third summer of the pandemic.

Those who have put long-distance trips on hold during the pandemic are undoubtedly keen to get back out by plane, train and boat. But what impact could the conflict have on these travel plans?

There could be less US tourists in Europe this summer

Concerned about the outbreak of war, some American tourists may decide to avoid Europe altogether.

“The US and Asian markets, which are now starting to open and tend to be more risk averse, may be particularly affected in respect to travel in general and to Europe in particular,” UNWTO says.

Travel between Europe and Asia will also be impacted by most European airlines having to re-route around Russian airspace, with Finnair particularly affected as a carrier connecting the continents.

Eastern Europe is still safe to travel over, says the EASA

The EASA is the EU agency charged with monitoring sky safety for passengers. It issued a ‘Conflict Zone Information Bulletin’(CZIB) on 24 February, immediately after the invasion, warning airlines not to fly over Ukraine, as well as parts of Moldova, Belarus and Russia.

Weeks on, that risk zone has not been extended, meaning there is no danger to passengers flying to neighbouring countries Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey.

The UK Foreign Office has also not altered its advice to citizens wanting to holiday in Poland, for example, though it notes that Russian military strikes have taken place in Ukraine within 20km of the Polish border.

Despite this, there are reports of tourism sales falling in Eastern European nations. Advantage Travel Partnership (the UK’s largest independent travel group) saw bookings to Turkey fall by 23 per cent week on week, Travel Weekly reports.

UN protection for tourists

In a recent interview, Holiday Village managing director Paula Nuttall posed the question, “If the war carries on, would some people be prepared to lose a £60 deposit on a holiday?

Concerns about losing out on money are another reason why some are put off, or putting off, their travel plans right now.

But a framework that emerged out of the pandemic should provide a safety net in these troubled times. In December 2021, the UN tourism body approved an International Code for the Protection of Tourists, setting minimum standards for their protection and rights during emergency situations.

Tourists are entitled to a full refund for cancelled trips under the new guidance, supported by more than 100 member states.