Personally, I have a flight to London in a few days, and if the plane goes, I’m going. But I’ve had three cancellations for travelers scheduled to travel next week. Already our agency is fielding calls from clients considering changing their summer plans. (One who said she wasn’t sure about going anywhere near an active volcano, so she was considering going to Hawaii. No comment.)
But the volcano issue highlights the fact that there are often outside issues about a trip. Sometimes it’s safety because of political issues, as travelers to Thailand are facing now, or worries about traveling to a place that has suffered some disaster, as in travel to New York after 9/11 or New Orleans after Katrina. But, these issues can complicate what was planned as a simple vacation.
As a travel agent, I get asked all the time, “should I go?” And the answer isn’t simple. My personal philosophy generally leans towards yes, for more than one reason.
First, I believe that, while you shouldn’t travel into the middle of a war zone, there are risks everywhere. Last year in our quiet northern California suburb, an older woman ran her car into a storefront across the street when she shifted the car into drive instead of reverse in a parking place. Fortunately, it was a Monday and the store was closed.
Second, I think even after a disaster, assuming you aren’t traveling in the immediate aftermath when all resources are focused on recovery, many destinations need the tourist dollars.
Most notably and recently in New Orleans, a city that depends heavily on tourism dollars, friends in the area told me that even the post-Katrina tours that outsiders might have felt were exploitative were welcome, since they were bringing in money to the city. (These tours covered hard hit neighborhoods both in the Ninth Ward and in more prosperous areas.)
Sometimes it’s not just a sense of “would it be right?” to enjoy ourselves as tourists in the midst of suffering, but “how much will our trip be affected?”
Our office had two sets of clients heading to Peru and Machu Picchu in April, when it wasn’t certain if the railway to the site would be open after the floods. One decided to risk it, another couple, while admitting they felt “guilty” depriving the poor country of tourist dollars, decided that they would postpone the “one-in-a-lifetime” trip indefinitely, in hopes of a more predictable experience.
(As it turned out, the railway did reopen on schedule)
Clearly, there is no single right answer here. If the Icelandic volcano doesn’t erupt again in a way that affects air travel, then a lot of people will have canceled trips for nothing. On the other hand, part of the pleasure of travel is the anticipation, and as I have told clients, “If you are dreading or worrying about a trip too much, that will take a lot of the fun out of it, even if things go smoothly.”
But what do you think, readers? Is there a set standard you have for when or when not to cancel a trip? Have you ever gone on a trip where you knew there were particular risks or recent issues at your destination? Or have you canceled or postponed a trip because of a potential issue?
If so, please share your story in comments.