If you’re planning a trip to Belgium, don’t let recent acts of terrorism hold hostage to your dreams.
That’s the word of Tripsite, a local tour agency in Springville, which arranges trips to Europe and other parts of the world.
Formed in 1999, Tripsite is owned and operated by Hennie van den Hengel and her three children Jan van den Hengel, Gea Ayala, and Carla Sprout.
Jan van den Hengel said that the operation has grown over the years, with Tripsite offices also in Missoula, Mont., Tbilisi in the Russian Republic of Georgia, as well as in Germany and in Brazil.
Tripsite operates as a liaison with many smaller travel agencies in Europe and the rest of the world, putting them in contact with customers interested in traveling to specific places.
“They (the smaller travel agencies) don’t want to be in the business of selling,” Van den Hengel explained. “They just want to run tours.”
The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels has had a definite impact on Tripsite’s business.
Van den Hengel said that several people who paid for tours to Belgium cancelled their reservations following the attacks. He estimated that their bookings have been down 15 to 20 percent following the bombings.
In the face of this, Van den Hengel and other Tripsite associates are urging people wishing to travel not to be intimidated by these and other acts of terrorism.
One such person is Mary Zdancewicz, who serves as a tour guide and web consultant for Tripsite.
Zdancewicz is an experienced traveler who has been to many places around the globe, and plans to go to the Balkan nation of Macedonia in May. She said there’s always a certain amount of risk involved in traveling, explaining that back in 1975 she traveled to Argentina as part of a student exchange program, right at the time the country became embroiled in a political coup.
Although the climate was extremely tense for a long time, Zdancewicz still found her trip to Argentina to be an educational and rewarding experience as she learned about the people and the culture of the country. People who travel usually have the same experiences, she said, explaining that traveling is not just entertainment.
“I cannot ignore the fact that there are potential terror threats as I travel or other threats to my safety, as well,” Zdancewicz wrote in a blog.
She wrote: “In fact, in many ways, the other dangers are far more looming than a terror attack. There have been several close calls! Once a speeding bus almost took me out in Amsterdam. I have fallen from my bike on a treacherous trail in Portugal. I have had a camera stolen from right beside me as I slept in a train station in Venice.”
Zdancewicz urged people wishing to travel to not let acts of terrorism keep them home, saying they will find going to different countries as a rich and rewarding experience through the years.
Jan van den Hengel pointed out that it is much more likely for a person to die close to home in a car accident or as the result of a violent crime as opposed to being killed in a terrorist attack.
“My view is that we’re open for business,” Van den Hengel explained.
He said they are going to continue to offer tours and provide the best services they can to their customers, as they have in the past.
Asked what people who travel can do to protect themselves, Zdancewicz said they should remain alert - particularly in public places like airports - and immediately report to the authorities if they spot something that appears suspicious.
Margie Hovan of Tunkannock has twice used Tripsite’s service to travel to Europe - to Croatia about four years ago, and later to Portugal. Both were bicycle tours, and Hovan said she found the experiences “wonderful.”
“It’s a great way to travel,” Hovan said. “You get to see a lot of things you don’t see with a car or a bus.”
Although Hovan said she would not be interested in traveling to Brussels right now, due to the current situation, she would definitely love to go to Holland, Italy or France.
“I would recommend Tripsite to anybody,” she said. “They’re a wonderful group to travel with.”
Anyone interested in further information about Tripsite can check out its website at www.tripsite.com.