It's almost December, so it's time to take a look at what the coming year will bring for Europe's tourism scene. We reached out to a few tour operators to see what 2014 has in store...
“We are seeing incredible increases to Croatia, Russia, Ireland, Eastern Europe in general and Turkey,” said Marc Kazlauskas, President of Insight Vacations. “We now have itineraries to every country in Europe with the exception of Kosovo.” Next year, the operator will have 115 itineraries to Europe (“our largest program ever,” Kazlauskas says) including new trips to Croatia; principalities such as San Marino, Andorra and Moldova; and Eastern Europe
Brian Stack of CIE Tours, meanwhile, has seen a large increase in combined trips to Scotland and Ireland, or Ireland and the UK.
“Britain, Ireland and Italy of course remain top-selling destinations,” said Paul Wiseman of Trafalgar Tours. “Europe came back strong with 40 percent growth in 2013 and we’re seeing the momentum continue with year-over-year growth for 2014 already. We’re still seeing a post-Olympics and mid-royal baby fever boom to Britain especially,” he added. The company also created a new itinerary, the 14-day Balkans and Venice tour, which includes Bosnia, Herzegovina and Sarajevo, in response to demand for Central and Eastern Europe.
Individuality and exclusivity are increasingly in demand for escorted tours. At Insight, the Country Roads tours, which take visitors to smaller towns and hamlets are up 23 percent. Similarly, the Gold Luxury series is “beating all expectations” with a 26 percent increase. “Clients are buying up and are looking for five-star hotels and meals,” Kazlauskas said.
At Central Holidays, CEO Gianni Miradoli has also seen increased demand over the past few years for customized travel programs with experiential elements. “Opting for programs tailored to an individual or group’s specific interests offers travelers the opportunities to enjoy activities that are very unique to them,” he noted. Central's new European itineraries include trekking and hiking programs in Italy, a luxury gullet cruise in Turkey and the launch of sales for the 2015 Passion Play of Sordevolo events in Italy.
Wiseman, meanwhile, noted that multi-country tours were up almost 40 percent last year, which he credits to American travelers trying to get the most out of limited vacation time. Also, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 70th anniversary of Normandy D-Day landing, Trafalgar's specialty trip World War I & II Battlefields has already seen more 2014 bookings than for all of 2013.
Trafalgar is also launching five new Europe itineraries next year, including its first-ever itinerary to Northern Spain, a tour of Switzerland’s top cities and countryside, a fully guided London and Paris tour, an “At Leisure Discovery” trip across several European countries and the previously mentioned Balkans and Venice tour.
Multi-generational travel is hardly new, but tour operators are constantly finding new ways to cater to increased demand. “Baby Boomers play a key role in why multi-generational vacations have become so popular and we certainly expect this trend to continue,” Miradoli said. “Boomers are often active...and young at heart. They cherish travel and opportunities for discovery. They put away money for vacations and enjoy sharing experiences with their grandchildren.” Journeys might include exploring a shared heritage with other family members, discovering a new culture, or something more active like a skiing vacation or trekking tour. Central Holidays is planning to launch a dedicated campaign to reach new families for multi-gen trips.
Stack, on the other hand, has a more pragmatic take on families traveling together: “Many people are coming to realize that, of course, you can leave money to your kids, but it's better to spend the money on them while you’re alive. You can take your kids and their kids and spend a week with them in Ireland or Scotland and bond with them. That time is more valuable than any money you can give.”