Atlanta remains calm in face of European travel alert

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department issued its travel alert, warning Americans about heightened terrorism concerns in Europe, and the trip was called off.

"We're backing off of it," said Bannerman, 34. "I'm a little worried."

The reaction in metro Atlanta to the alert hovered between small worry and hardly any at all. The alert stopped short of advising Americans to stay away from Europe, but it created enough concern to prompt Emory University and University of Georgia officials to send out cautionary e-mails to their students abroad.

The travel alert, which remains in place through January, warned of possible attacks on European tourist sites and transportation.

"Avoid crowded tourist areas and sites, as well as typical American locations such as Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.," the Emory e-mail said.

UGA officials advised its 166 students in Europe to register any travel plans with the U.S. State Department. The school has a large art program in Italy and literature, philosophy and economics courses in England.

"It's worth being cautious about," said Kasee Laster, UGA school director for foreign study.

The Transportation Security Administration issued a short statement, indicating passengers should expect the normal yet unpredictable mix of security layers that included explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams and pat downs.

The business impact of the travel advisory was unclear. Atlanta-based UPS declined to say what, if any, actions it would take. A Coca-Cola spokesman didn't readily have any information.

Most people traveling from Atlanta to Europe weren't canceling trips because they felt safe or because the airlines weren't waiving cancellation and change fees, travel agents said. However, people looking to book trips, such as the Bannermans, were reconsidering their plans for Europe or finding other destinations, actions that experts said could affect the travel industry over time.

On Monday, airlines in Atlanta continued business as usual. Delta's flights to European destinations were uninterrupted, and people weren't canceling flights, airline officials said. 

Travelers in general didn't seem fazed by the alert. Lindsay and Rodney McGhee returned Monday from a European honeymoon to learn that they unknowingly had been in the middle of raised threat awareness.

"I guess we were in our own little happy tourist bubble," Lindsay McGhee said at the international baggage terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

UGA microbiology professor Juergen Wiegel, waiting for his luggage after returning from Germany, said the alert was vague. It didn't identify any cities or tourist sites.

"Usually folks don't take it seriously if it's not specific," Wiegel said.

Others such as Mark Stallings, a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Germany, said the warning should be taken seriously. He came to Atlanta on leave to spend time with his son, 16.

"If there's a warning, there's definitely something to be worried about," Stallings said.

Still others such as Carl Howard of All Points Travel in Atlanta said it takes more than a travel alert to frighten people in the post 9/11 world.

"It's sort of a non-event," Howard said.

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