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Some Americans keep travel plans to Middle East despite unrest

November 19, 1997

DALLAS (AP) _ With the bags packed and the tickets bought, many travelers are proceeding with their Middle East vacations despite a recent attack against tourists in Egypt and a warning from the State Department.

``We’re not hearing of mass cancellations of plans,″ Chris Privett, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, said Wednesday. ``On the other hand, I’m aware that there are some.″

Travelers may be continuing with their itineraries because it takes a long time to plan a trip to the Mideast, said Sheryl Spivack, a tourism specialist at George Washington University.

But there hasn’t been any jump in the purchase of cancellation insurance either, said Barb Hemberger of Carlson-Wagonlit-Travel.

Spivack also suggested that since no U.S. citizens were identified among those killed in Monday’s attack at an ancient Egyptian temple in Luxor, Americans may feel less concerned.

More than half of the 58 tourists killed were Swiss. Eight Japanese also were among the dead, and Japan Travel Bureau Inc. in Tokyo, the country’s largest tour operator, canceled all scheduled visits to Luxor and was considering halting other tours to Egypt.

The attack was the bloodiest in a five-year Islamic insurgency to oust the secular government and install strict Islamic rule. The State Department canceled all government travel to the area and recommend that private citizens not travel to upper Egypt.

And some travelers are heeding that advice.

``I didn’t cancel when I heard about the Jerusalem bomb. I didn’t cancel with the bomb on the tourist bus,″ Carole Myles said. But Wednesday, her 20-day trip to Egypt left without her _ even though her tour operator refused to give her a refund.

``My life has more value than that,″ she said.

Travel agents are unsure whether such edginess will last.

``I know from previous experience, because we’ve had several other terrorist attacks in Egypt, that they’ve only had short-term impact,″ said Keith Betton, spokesman for The Association of British Travel Agents.

But Dolly McGarrah, a travel agent for 25 years with Transcontinental Travel in Houston, said she hasn’t had anyone cancel their trip, yet she thinks it will hurt in the longterm.

``I would, if I had a trip planned to Egypt,″ she said, adding she would switch to a different destination.

``Maybe Tahiti,″ she said.