The terror attacks in Brussels have cast a pall over the Easter getaway with enhanced security at airports and Eurostar terminals.
Explosions rocked the main terminal at Brussels Zaventem airport after 7am UK time on Tuesday, followed by a blast at Brussels’ Maelbeek metro station.
Thirty four people are confirmed to have been killed, with over 250 injured.
Flights into and out of Brussels were cancelled, with the airport closed on Wednesday and passengers advised to contact their airlines. Public transport in the Belgian capital shut down as Belgium raised its terror threat to the highest level and the Belgium-France border was closed.
Eurostar trains into and out of Brussels resumed a restricted service on Tuesday afternoon.
Agents and operators worked to check on travellers, change arrangements and keep people informed. Barrhead Travel confirmed it had a party of 21 on an educational trip en route to Brussels airport on Tuesday morning and had arranged for their return home.
The attacks occurred as research for Travel Weekly suggested terrorism is now the biggest concern among overseas travellers, with more than one in three (35%) of those planning an overseas holiday admitting concern about attacks while they are away and more than half (53%) saying they would change destination or cancel a holiday in the event of a terrorist incident “in or near their destination”.
Industry consultant Andy Cooper described the attacks as “horrific” and conceded some people due to travel over Easter might cancel, saying: “There are always some risk-averse people.” But he said the more important message for travellers was “leave more time to get through security”.
Cooper also warned: “Whenever there is a security incident it tends to produce a knee-jerk reaction and we need a balanced response, not a knee-jerk response.
“Wherever you go there is a threat now and this has underlined the vulnerability of airports.”
The airport explosions appeared to be landside and Cooper said: “It wouldn’t surprise me if what comes out of this is restricted [public] access to airport buildings. That would cause chaos.”
The Airport Operators Association declined to comment on the implications for airport security. But the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) noted “terror attacks are growing in frequency” and urged governments “to work closely together to increase security on the ground and across borders”. However, WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: “Enhancing security does not mean closing down borders.”
Stock markets fell following the bombings, with shares in listed travel firms falling most sharply.
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