As Parisians--and the world at large--still reel from the terrorist attacks that killed 129 people over the weekend, U.S. companies doing business in Western Europe are piecing together their own responses.
With muted tones, fast-growth companies in many industries are preparing for what could be a prolonged period of unrest that may involve additional attacks, as well as governmental actions that could tamp down on future business growth.
In the near term, companies are preparing themselves for a variety of most-likely scenarios. These include extra scrutiny at ports, which could delay shipments from Western Europe; extra queries from customers who may be using their services to travel to and from Paris; and the demand for insurance that will cover them in the event of another terrorist attack.
“Terrorism incidents make people scared,” says John Logan, managing partner of Jet Partners Worldwide, a private jet charter company based in New York City that operates within the U.S., but which also flies to Western Europe, and between major European hubs like Paris and London. “But it damages cities like Paris more if they lose tourism and business as a result of people cancelling their travel plans.”
Jet Partners, which has five full-time employees and is on track for revenues of about $5.6 million for the year, is No. 2,762 on the 2015 Inc. 5000. Logan says the terrorist attacks might actually create a bump up in demand for the company’s service, two thirds of which are booked by business executives, celebrities, and wealthy clientele. Such customers, leery of the extra security and long lines at airports, may opt for the company’s services in the months ahead.
Similarly, Squaremouth of St. Petersburg, Florida says it’s preparing for more inquiries about its travel insurance options.
“We already have seen an increase in interest from travelers who are more aware of terror attacks in different areas who are looking to us to buy policies with terrorist coverage,” says Rachel Taft, a Squaremouth spokeswoman, who estimates that nearly a dozen people have called in the last few days. She adds that the interest stems not just from the Paris attacks but also as a result of the crash of the Russian airliner in Sinai Peninsula at the end of October, and the latest bombings in Beirut.
Some have called to see if they can add terrorism coverage to polices, which generally speaking protects against various losses due to attacks within seven to 30 days of a trip. Some policies will cancel coverage for a period of up to 90 days for any city directly involved in a terror attack, Taft says, adding that the company’s customer service reps have been prepped to offer as much direct help as they possibly can.
Squaremouth ranks at No. 2,703 on the 2015 list and has 22 employees and revenue of about $4.5 million.
For Brian Morgan, the founder of Adventure Life, this weekend’s tragedies serve as a sad reminder of September 11th and the havoc terrorism can wreak on business. The Missoula, Montana-based online tour-package company, which he founded in 1999, saw a sharp drop in off in 2001 bookings, as consumers stopped traveling for several months following the attacks.
Adventure Life, which has 24 employees and ranks at No. 3,191 on the 2015 Inc. 5000, provides travel services around the globe, with less than 20 percent related to travel to Western Europe, including boat tours on the Rhine, Danube, and Seine. Following the Paris attacks, Morgan says he wouldn’t be surprised if consumers halt any trip purchases--moving to recalibrate their travel plans and begin booking trips to areas they deem more safe, such as Latin America, Canada, and within the U.S.
Morgan adds he’s readying company agents to work closely with customers who may be nervous about traveling, and to go the extra mile to provide refunds for cancellations.
“We really want to look out for our customers because we want to be here 10 years from now,” Morgan says.
Finally, even companies in non-travel industries are expecting some interruptions. That holds true for Votto Vines, a wine importer and wholesaler in Hamden, Connecticut, which ranks at No. 593 on this year’s Inc. 5000.
The company imports wines from France, Italy and Spain, with between 10 percent and 20 percent of the company’s $8 million in revenue coming from the sale of French wine, says company founder and chief executive Michael Votto.
Votto says he’s preparing for delays at east coast ports, as security is likely to tighten on both sides of the Atlantic.
“The western world is galvanizing against terrorism and taking steps to strengthen security, which could have an impact on our business,” Votto says.