Spring has not exactly sprung, but Europe is hoping to entice visitors with the wonders of nature.
Destination Germany has rolled out “Fascinating Nature Vacations “ as its primary theme for the year. Hopes are that the campaign will keep the six-year trend in visitor increases going. As of November 2015, Germany’s international visits were up 5.6 percent. Growth from the U.S. market exceeded eight percent.
For 2016, the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) is highlighting natural sites and environmental policies that promote sustainability.
"With 130 natural landscapes throughout Germany, including 16 national parks, 15 UNESCO protected biosphere reserves and more than 100 natural parks, Destination Germany is a great choice for any traveler looking to get out into nature for all or part of their trip,” Ricarda Linder, GNTB regional manager the Americas, tells Travel Agent.
“A third of Germany’s total land mass is covered by woodlands, so it’s easy to spend a day in nature far from any of the country’s vibrant cities,” Linder adds.
As examples, Linder notes that clients visiting Frankfurt can venture to the Rhön UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area is known for its orchards, meadows and fields of grazing Rhön sheep.
North of Berlin, the Barnim Nature Park is a popular option for walking and biking trips. And visitors can take advantage of a GPS data and discovery trail.
“If you’re headed to Munich, Berchtesgaden National Park offers breathtaking mountain scenery, picturesque lakes and lush green forests. It’s one of the oldest conservation areas in the Alps,” says Linder.
A YouTube video campaign will show off activities such as climbing, hang gliding and wildlife viewing. Social media influencers will also be creating content using the hastag #EnjoyGermanNature.
For those who prefer their nature encounters in a more manicured form, the U.K. beckons with its “Year of the English Garden 2016.”
The campaign marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of England’s gardening legend, Lancelot “Capability” Brown. Brown-designed landscapes and gardens grace some of England’s most famous stately homes. Among them: Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth, Weston Park and the “Downton Abbey” setting of Highclere Castle.
Brown’s signatures include rolling hills, curved lakes, flowing rivers and majestic tree canopies. His genius was in making them appear as natural landscape. In fact, they were meticulously designed, along with elaborate drainage systems.
Brown's nickname of “Capability” sprung from his habit of telling clients he could see the capabilities for improvement. He worked on more than 200 sites during his lifetime, with thousands more influenced by his work.
Special events in 2016 will include exhibits at major sites including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth and Croome. VisitEngland has complied a list of gardens most suited for group visits. They’ve also prepared suggested short break itineraries highlighting famous gardens, castles, lakes and cathedrals.
Those “must-sees” are part of the U.K.’s perennial appeal, according to Kier Matthews, vice president of sales for Europe Express.
“This is our heaviest booking period. We track our business weekly. I can say that last week, the top three or four destinations were Italy, the U.K., Greece and France in that order,” Matthews tells Travel Agent.
Interest in Europe overall is definitely booming, according to Matthews.
“We’re up 33 percent year over year. I attribute that to pent-up demand and the strength of the dollar,” he said.
Nature lovers who might want to add a thrill ride into the mix might consider one of Europe Express’ popular options. It’s a London sightseeing tour by helicopter.