There’s an article in the Sunday New York Times titled “How to Zip Through Airport Security” that got me to thinking about and reviewing all the articles I’ve read recently about travel security. The list keeps growing: Paris (137 die), San Bernardino (14 killed), Brussels (35 deaths), Orlando (49 die quickly). And then there are the planes shot down, intentionally crashed, sabotaged, etc. Nathan Lump of Travel and Leisure magazine says that real travelers are not ruled by fear and can travel safely to trouble spots like Istanbul. But are real travelers cancelling trips? Some are.
According to “Where to Go in Europe, and How to Stay Safe”, an article in the May 15, 2016, New York Times, Belgium is hurting. According to Mickey Creyf, “The restaurants and hotels are empty because there is a fear factor to coming here.” However, Paris is reportedly coming back with hotel prices actually higher than they were this time last year.
Only three months after 137 people died in mass shootings “Europe was the top destination for United States citizens in January,” according to the Department of Commerce. Business Insider ranked Paris #5 on its 2016 list of the 20 most visited cities in the world and estimated that almost 15 million international travelers will go there this year. The How to Stay Safe article advised, “DON’T BE AFRAID, BE AWARE” and suggested that the wise provide copies of travel documents to family members and leave credit cards at home.
Travel is getting far more complex, and when will this seriously impact the travel industry? An article in a January, 2016, The Economist titled “A strange sort of welcome” pointed out that some governments are upping visa requirements. The 26 European countries in the Schengen Group, for example, require tourists from India “to provide several months’ worth of bank statements and pay slips”. While Americans generally travel abroad more freely and with fewer visa requirements, travelers to the U.S. from places like Iraq face a rigorous visa application process. Chinese and Indian travelers are more likely to face difficult, even humiliating, applications when applying for visas.
Despite this, the demand for visas is surging. In 1997, The U.S. granted about 6 million of them. In 2014 it provided almost 10 million visas. Governments are increasingly turning over the visa application process to private contractors, which results in higher service fees and lots more paperwork. Worldwide, there were 113 million visa applications processed in 2013, and 1 out of 3 were completed by contractors. VFS Global processes visas for 48 governments.
I hear more people saying, “I’m staying home because travel is too much hassle.” When I faced a long security line at an airport recently I asked a TSA employee why Ruth was TSA PreChecked but I was not. “It’s random,” she informed me with a shrug.