People should not ‘feel bad’ visiting countries that neighbour Ukraine

Ukraine refugees driven from their homes by the Russian invasion can be supported if tourism numbers into countries that neighbour Ukraine remain strong, according to Avalon Waterways’ managing director.

Speaking at the Clia RiverView conference last week, Pam Hoffee explained how the US trade had been contacted by concerned customers who were worried about “celebrating” on holiday in Hungary during the conflict.

But Hoffee added that a Visit Hungary representative had told US-based agents if customers did not continue to support economies because they “feel bad”, countries such as Hungary would not be able to help refugees.

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“Fear is one thing and it’s harder to overcome,” she said. “But the fact you’re feeling bad is not a reason not to come.”

Delegates at Clia’s RiverView Conference were encouraged to donate hygiene products to the Hungarian Red Cross and make financial donations to Disasters Emergency Committee.

Agents brought items such as soap, shower gel, shampoo and toothbrushes to the three-day conference in Budapest.

Other cruise line bosses agreed with Hoffee that the Ukraine conflict had caused caused demand to drop off.

Paul Melinis, managing director of APT Luxury River Cruises & Tours, said: “January and February were looking good but in the last two or three weeks we’ve seen it slow down.”

Hygiene products donated by Clia member agents
Hygiene products donated by Clia member agents

Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld president and chief executive, added the US market was growing concerned about the ongoing Russian invasion.

“This gentlemen I spoke to the other day was afraid to come to Budapest,” she said. “He said ‘there are going to be refugees everywhere, it’s going to be scary’.

“No cruise out there is going to take their crew or their guests into harm’s way. We’re always monitoring the situation.”

Clia chair Ben Bouldin, also Royal Caribbean’s vice president for EMEA, said: “For sure the sheer number of you here tells us how keen you are to be working together and travelling once more.

“I know that many of us have significant concern over the current events taking place on our doorstep in Ukraine. Our best wishes go to those that are impacted. We should spare a thought for that.”

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