It’s still early days, but Avanti and USTOA are optimistic about bookings in Europe
Offer airlines to restore or increase service to more Europe and more and more European countries are developing specific protocols for international visitors, “we expect the number of travelers and new bookings to reach 2019 levels by the end of the third quarter of 2021”, states Paul Barry, CEO, Avanti Destinations.
While Barry notes that it is still a bit early to project the final outcome of 2021 bookings, he is clearly optimistic.
Likewise, Terry Dale, president and CEO, Association of Tour Operators of the United States (USTOA), tells Trip Agent that “we feel pretty damn optimistic … We surveyed eight out of 10 active members … are enthusiastic, cautiously optimistic about business in the third and fourth quarters of this year.”
Dale says USTOA members continue to provide positive feedback to the trade association on how the business is going. He also believes the value proposition of the tour operator and travel advisor working together during the pandemic has been high.
While Dale emphasizes that “we never want to be too optimistic, we are convinced that things have certainly taken a turn.” Additionally, he says USTOA members celebrated the fact that the European Union came out and said “we are ready to welcome we travelers. A step like this is huge. “
Dale says that while every country in the EU still has the capacity to create the right measures for their country and to protect their citizens, “this still signals a very important step on the part of the EU”
In the USTOA investigation, Dale said classified members Italy at the top of the most requested European destination for 2021 as well as 2022, while Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Germany were also at the top of the list.
Travel trends in Europe
As Europe begins to open up, Barry sees these trends develop for consumers who book his brand’s personalized FITs.
Multiple locations, closer distances: While multi-destination and personalized FIT itineraries have always been Avanti Destinations’ specialty and continue to be in Europe, “we have seen a trend towards vacations that combine multiple destinations in one country, as opposed to multiple countries. “, Barry said the travel agent.
For Avanti, Italy and Greece are the most popular this year among customers heading to Europe. Among their other top vacation picks are Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Croatia.
“Prior to COVID-19[feminine, la Grèce était dans le top 10 [for Avanti], but I’ve never done it right, ”Barry says, noting that it’s“ definitely on the hot list ”. An Avanti offer is the six nights “Greece: Splendors of the south of the Peloponnese “, daily departure from Athens. Guests spend two nights in Athens, one night in Nafplion and three nights along the Peloponnese Coast.
Another glimpse? Prior to 2020, almost all of Avanti’s bookings for Iceland were stopovers on the way to Europe. Barry says: “Now we are seeing full itineraries in Iceland, as well as combinations of Iceland with other European countries, like Greece. “
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece // Photo by TomasSereda / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
When multiple countries are booked, Barry says it is both a classic combination of popular cities such as Budapest, Hungary, Prague in the Czech Republic, and Vienna, Austria, or combinations of less common city choices such as Amsterdam, Netherlands and Budapest; Munich, Germany and Portugal; or Rome, Zurich, Switzerland and Helsinki, Finland.
Secondary or remote Iconic City Plus location: When travelers plan a vacation in Europe, they often book an itinerary that combines a capital or a popular city with a secondary city in that same country, or, failing that, an itinerary that combines a city with “more distant places where the countryside where nature are the main attractions, ”says Barry.
He gives the examples of Croatia and its islands, Lapland in Finland and Greece and its islands. Barry also says that in Iceland about 50 percent of Avanti’s overnight stays are booked outside of Reykjavík and similarly, 55 percent of the nights booked by Avanti in Ireland are outside of Dublin.
Outdoor or active adventures: Advisors add a wide range of activities, including biking and hiking, to personalized vacations. “About 10% of the complementary ‘sightseeing / tourist activities’ booked with us are for some sort of outdoor activity like hiking or biking, especially in destinations outside of the countryside,” Barry said, citing the popularity of these activities in Switzerland, Iceland and Scandinavia.
For example, in Finland and the Lapland region Avanti offers a personalized 10-day FIT described as “Fantastic Finland – Summer: Helsinki, Ruka-Kuusamo, Rovaniemi & Kemi. “Travelers will explore Helsinki; experience Finland’s wilderness in the Ruka-Kuusamo area with hiking in Oulanka National Park or watch bears; and board a traditional river boat on the way to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. These vacations are offered by Avanti from June to August.
In addition to hiking and biking, Avanti offers sailing tours, truffle hunting, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, caving, snorkeling, kayaking and whitewater rafting.
“People want to be on the outside,” Dale admits. “They want to experience something with nature.” It shows how Americans came to the United States National parks in 2020 and earlier in 2021 and claims that the outdoor travel trend is also global.
For Iceland, between April and September, Abercrombie & Kent proposes an “eight days”Fire and ice”Route with many outdoor experiences. It is designed as a “Private TripAnd is priced at $ 13,495, per person, double occupancy.
More information on trends
European journeys tend to take longer. They are also increasingly private on many fronts. Barry cites more private tourism experiences and booked excursions, as well as private transfers.
More pre-booking of entrance tickets and day trip options has also become the norm, given the increased requirements for timed entry to museums and other attractions. Additionally, many travel counselors make it easier for cruise customers in FIT land travel by adding extensions before or after the cruise, Barry says.
Passion Play’s performances in Oberammergau, Germany in 2022 are proving popular with American travelers who book vacations in Europe. // Photo by manfredxy / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
For 2022, the Passion Play once a decade at Oberammergau, Germany has always been a big draw and it still is for next year, according to Avanti and other USTOA members..
Additionally, “even before the pandemic, we saw this trend of small group travel,” says Dale, noting that the pandemic has accelerated because people want “to travel with a bubble of family and friends in whom they trust “and believe they are responsible by following security protocols.
Even when opting for an escorted tour, offered by many USTOA members (not Avanti), travelers look for smaller groups. An option to explore Portugal and Spain as a “Discover in a small groupy “is Cosmos“Nine days”Lisbon, Seville and Madrid”Route, which is an“ active pace ”tour. Guests spend three nights in Madrid, two nights in both Seville and Lisbon and one night in Portugal Coimbra. This affordable tour is priced at $ 1,199 per double person for 2022.
The small group tour is expected to continue for years to come. “It’s really a trend and I think it will be for the foreseeable future,” notes Dale. People want to travel in small groups and with those they know. And for people traveling to and within Europe, Barry’s number one tip? “We can’t overemphasize this,” he stresses, “book early.”
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