PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – The State Department plans to caution Americans traveling in Europe to be vigilant because of heightened concerns about a potential al-Qaida terrorist attack aimed at U.S. citizens and Europeans.
The travel “alert” will be issued Sunday for travelers’ guidance and is general in nature and will not focus on any specific country, location or tourist sites, senior U.S. officials told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.
The action falls short of a formal “travel warning” which could have broader implications including a stronger likelihood of canceled airline and hotel bookings. It also will not urge travelers to stay away from public places — something Europeans and some members of the Obama administration had viewed as an overreaction.
The travel alert is a cumulative result of information the U.S. has received over an extended period, one of the officials said, noting that agencies are constantly monitoring a range of threats.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley declined to comment Saturday on the matter. But he said the administration remains focused on al-Qaida threats to U.S. interests and will take appropriate steps to protect Americans.
The warning may discourage some travelers, but not all, according to a local travel expert.
Patti Mitchell is president of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Travel Agents of North America. She says the warning is not likely to discourage seasoned travelers from visiting Europe, but she says less experienced tourists may stay home:
“That’s pretty much the way it has been for me over the last few years between a lot of drug cartels and swine flu. Panic sets in because everybody believes everything, and everybody’s afraid since September 11th.”
Mitchell says the warning is non-specific and covers such a wide area, the odds of an individual visitor being affected seem extremely slim.
However, she says travelers have to decide for themselves:
“I can’t really advise someone, I can only tell them what the situation is.”
Mitchell says one big consideration might be, is a terror warning covered by travel insurance.
Reported by: Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.