One-on-One With Avanti: Harry Dalgaard Talks Europe Expansion

Following the recent USTOA conference in Boca Raton, Florida, we got a chance to catch up with Avanti Destinations president and founder Harry Dalgaard to see what destinations should be on agents' radar screens in 2015. 

The company reports that overall European bookings have more than doubled in the past three years, and several destinations – both north and south -- have seen growth of more than 100 percent in the past 12 months.

“I’m optimistic about 2015,” Dalgaard told Travel Agent after the conference. “We’re already seeing advance bookings up approximately 23 percent for 2015, [and] we’ve had substantial growth over the last three years. It reflects the overall trend of the economy.” 

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The U.S. travel market is also “maturing,” Dalgaard continued, in terms of past travel experiences, which he believes is leading these travelers to smaller group tours and FIT experiences. In particular, he noted, travelers are looking to combine multiple cities and even multiple countries when they visit Europe, with as many as 70 percent of their clients look for a multi-city trip. “We’re fulfilling a hole in the market,” he said. “In addition to FIT travel, we can easily connect multiple cities and destinations in Europe to complete a vacation.”  

High Growth Destinations

Avanti reports booking growth in excess of 100 percent in the past 12 months for Greece, Iceland and Norway, with booking growth for Poland and Denmark approaching 100 percent. Individual destinations with high growth this past year include Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, Oslo, Flam, Copenhagen, Nuremberg, Freiburg, Bilbao, Mallorca and Krakow.

“Our highest growth in 2014 was in Greece,” Dalgaard said. “It came back with a bang, way ahead of the figures we had prior to their downturn.” This growth, he added, is poised to continue through 2015. 

Somewhat unexpectedly, he continued, Switzerland has seen notable growth, especially as a hub and spoke or as a stopover between France and Italy. For 2015, Avanti has launched an 11-day tour of called the Grand Tour of Switzerland by Rail in partnership with Swiss Tourism. 

Following the conference Avanti also released its 2015 “Essence of Europe” brochure of customizable FIT itineraries and options, including 48 new vacations and 126 new add-on tours and transfers. 

Avanti’s 48 new customizable land-only vacations (and 126 new add-on tours and transfers) include:

  • Iceland: Glacial Wonders of the South Coast – four days/three nights, with glacier walk, snowmobile ride and car rental.  Departures through April. 
  • Grand Train Tour of Switzerland – 11 days/10 nights exploring all around Switzerland on scenic and historic rail as well as by boat and bus. 
  • Scotland: Perfect Perth – three days/two nights in historic country house hotel on golf course, Highland Safari tour, rental car. 
  • Greece: Santorini for Honeymooners – four days/three nights including dinner, private roundtrip transfers. 
  • Austria: Austrian Bliss - Salzburg & Wachau Valley - seven days/six nights with three days of rental car to explore the Wachau Valley and its vineyards. 
  • Portugal: Douro Valley – three days/two nights in a picturesque wine-growing area known for archeological sites. Includes wine tasting.

For more information, visit www.avantidestinations.com.  

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