Operatives from the Islamic State struck against civilians in Brussels last week, and Paris last November, leaving hundreds of casualties in their wake. Following the Brussels attacks, the Associated Press reported that ISIS has trained an estimated 400 fighters to launch attacks across Europe.
The attacks may also deal a serious blow to Europe’s tourism industry. France has been the world’s most popular travel destination for years, but last November’s deadly Paris attacks has thrown the city’s international travel into disarray. According to hotel bookings, Paris sales dropped by 30 percent in the days following the attack while flight reservations fell by 27 percent.
European tourism was only beginning to recover when ISIS agents struck Brussels last week. Although Brussels is not a tourist hub like Paris or London, the city connects several European cities by train. Belgium shut down the city’s train stations after the attacks, and the airport’s incoming and outgoing passenger flights were be suspended until Monday, March 28.
Despite the recent turmoil, BYU is keeping its European study abroad programs intact. Lynn Elliott, BYU’s director of international study programs, said that BYU’s international security analyst recommends that students practice caution as they travel.
“They should pay attention to their surroundings,” Elliott said. “If they feel uncomfortable being in places, then they ought to avoid those. You should be careful where you are at night. If you can, travel in groups.”
Elliott said students need to remember that there’s no guarantee of safety anywhere in the world, not even in Provo. But he also said Americans traveling abroad are more likely to die in a traffic or water related accident than from an act of terrorism.
Many BYU students will calculate the risks and then move ahead with their plans for international travel, Elliott said. These students might even have an advantage over most tourists because so many of them have served foreign missions or spent time abroad.
“I think the students might even have a little more realistic view of the dangers about traveling abroad,” Elliott said. “So it’s probably less likely to affect BYU than it might affect other places that don’t have that kind of background.”
About 1,700 students will travel abroad with the Kennedy Center this year. The Center, which Forbes recently named as one of BYU’s best characteristics, hosts more than 100 international study programs in about 50 countries.