Travel suppliers are heeding the call to expand offerings throughout Europe.
New product for 2016-2017 includes Alexander+Roberts’ “Ancient Crossroads-Albania, Greece + Macedonia.”
“It’s such an interesting part of the world,” Alexander + Roberts President Robert Drumm tells Travel Agent.
Few Americans know Albania and Macedonia, which is part of the appeal.
“Our Croatia and Montenegro products were so successful, we decided to go a little farther south. Albania had a really rough Communist period and it has rebounded. People are realizing the fact that they can go beyond Dubrovnik, “ said Drumm.
“Ancient Crossroads” visits monasteries, ancient villages and archaeological sites. In addition to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, guests will meet local residents. Activities include a theatrical performance and visit to a centuries-old Venetian mask factory.
“You can do things and see things that you can’t see in other areas. The notion of discovery is a big driver in today’s travel decisions. People want to see places that are less standardized and more authentic,” said Drumm.
Scott Wiseman, president, the Americas, Cox & Kings, shares that view.
“When we first launched Europe, it was all about Russia, Scandinavia and Turkey. Now we’ve launched new products in some incredible destinations, such as Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan,” Wiseman tells Travel Agent.
The operator’s “Gems of the Caucasus” program includes wine tasting at a famous Georgian winery and a tour of Neolithic petroglyphs in Azerbaijan. Guests also learn how to make lavash on a visit with an Armenian family.
Albania is on the Cox & Kings product lineup as well. An eight-night private journey features Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. And an eight-night escorted group tour visits Albania and Macedonia.
“People are increasingly asking for the less traditional and more exotic,” said Wiseman.
Though not as novel as their Balkan neighbors, Greece and Turkey have been in the news this year. Greece for its economic crisis and Turkey for ongoing security jitters over its border with Syria.
Travel suppliers and sellers have seen little fallout, however.
“I have a group of ten going to Greece next summer. And my husband, son and I just returned from a cruise that called in Turkey. We felt perfectly safe. At our hotel, they told us to please tell clients that Turkey is safe. They asked us not to believe everything we see on the news,” Jan Mauer, owner of Exciting Vacations tells Travel Agent.
Harry Dalgaard, president and founder of Avanti Destinations said Greece business has seen little decline.
“Greece has been a high-growth destination the last couple of years. We had a blip that came slowly and it really just affected September travel. We’re still up 20 percent year over year,” Dalgaard tells Travel Agent.
Avanti itself is in the news with a major new product expansion.
The company has added Back-Roads Touring small group escorted tours to its offerings. Avanti’s Essence of Europe 2016 brochure will include 17 Back-Roads products. Destinations include the Benelux countries, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK.