We’re heading into the last few months of 2017 and while we’re still trying to work out where the year has gone, we’re rather excited because it’s time to plan some fabulous festive getaways!
Christmas markets have so many of our favourite things… Delicious local treats, gorgeous handcrafted ornaments, unique Christmas decorations, the perfect gifts for friends and family, and a warm glow that’s hard to beat.
Some of our customers have asked about safety at these markets however, following recent vehicle attacks in places such as Barcelona and the attack at a Christmas market in Berlin last December.
Here are our thoughts on the matter…
Should we still go?
Sadly, terrorism is a reality and can’t always be prevented, but we don’t believe the risk is high enough to prevent us from travelling. It’s still highly unlikely that we will be directly affected by terrorism, even though media coverage sometimes makes it seem otherwise.
We’re reassured by quite a few factors:
- Last year following the Berlin attack, many markets in the UK and Europe immediately stepped up security to prevent any similar attacks. We’re confident that they’ll have high levels of security again this festive season – probably even more than last year’s “stepping up.”
- Airport security has increased lately, and will remain high. This has caused some delays though, so be sure to allow enough time for longer security queues!
- Police have prevented or intercepted a number of attacks recently – they are on the case and they’re doing an excellent job.
- There are steps we can take to protect ourselves and make every journey safer. With a little planning and preparation, you can make informed choices.
Where to go
We don’t believe in those lists of “safest cities” because while statistics can give us an idea of frequency, they can never predict where terrorism will or won’t take place in the future.
We do believe in choosing the destination that will make all your Christmas wishes come true, with a few checks to make sure it’s as safe as possible.
- Is the market a pedestrian-only area?
- Are vehicles barricaded/prevented from entering the market area?
- If not, are there blockades or bollards on the pavements to prevent a vehicle from driving into a crowd?
- Remember, these won’t all look like barricades – concrete benches, pillars and statues on the pavement can all be “designer” forms of security.
- Are there a few exits and are they easy to get to?
- Would a crowd be able to leave easily in case of a fire, for example?
- Are there undercover areas in case of rain or snow?
- Don’t put your health at risk! Even if you’re travelling in November, it’ll be chilly out there.
- Is the ground even/easy to walk on?
- Tripping hazards are even more of a hazard when you’re in a large crowd.
- If mobility is limited, cobbled streets can make life a little less pleasant when walking around a market, but if you have to exit quickly they can become a big problem.
Where do I get all that information?
We’re unlikely to see festive season security plans for cities or markets (that would be a breach of security!) but it’s quite easy to do some quick research and look for safety features.
Have a look at the market and city websites as they’ll often have photos from last year’s markets – look for areas without cars, or that have bollards or other security features. You may even be able to click on a plan of the market and/or the area to see exits and general layout.
There will almost always be a Contact form or email address on those websites, and we’re sure someone will be able to answer questions about standard safety features and accessibility.
Search the web!
Search for images of the markets you’re interested in and look out for those safety features in the photos. Travel websites and forums such as TripAdvisor are great too – it’s amazing what other travellers will have noticed.
For general safety information about a specific destination, check the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice web pages for the latest safety information, as well as any advice against travel. You can also check our weekly safety round-ups for summaries of each week’s FCO notifications.
Don’t wait – book now
There seems to be a perception that tourism in Europe has decreased and accommodation will be easy to find, but according to research conducted by ForwardKeys in April 2017, inbound growth is firmly back on track. Visitor numbers in France, for example, were higher in August 2017 than they had been prior to the November 2015 Paris attacks – we found this really interesting, and you can read more about the resilience of the travel industry here.
So don’t delay in making that booking or you could find yourself paying a lot more for flights and accommodation, or even missing out on your preferred destination.
But what if…?
Well, that’s what travel insurance is for – it protects you financially, so booking ahead is much less of a risk. It’s important for local and international trips, especially in case you need to cancel.
With the appropriate travel insurance policy, you’ll be covered for illness, natural catastrophes, and various other issues that could make you unable to travel.
You can add comprehensive terrorism cover to that for as little as £4.96 per person (that’s for a single trip of up to 8 days) which allows you to cancel if there’s an act of terrorism anywhere within 40 miles of your destination, any time during the 6 weeks before you depart!
(And that’s just one element of the cover included in every Safe Journey policy… get the full inclusions, exclusions, terms and conditions in our Policy Wording.)
With greater peace of mind, you really can look forward to an even happier, sparklier Christmas market holiday!