Tour operators are anxious to get the word out that it’s not too late to book summer travel to Europe. That’s good news if your clients are looking for family travel suggestions.
Janet McLaughlin, assistant team leader with Liberty Travel in Wyomissing, PA, tells Travel Agent that inquiries for this summer are going strong. She’s even seeing some early interest in next summer as well.
“Tax season from January through April is our busiest time. People get that refund in their pockets and they want to come in and check out what’s available. We’re in a mall and get a lot of walk-in traffic,” said McLaughlin.
What types of trips are people asking about?
“Couples want culinary wine tours. We also have lots of cruise clients who’ve seen Rome for a day. They want to go back for more gelato and some in-depth touring,” said McLaughlin.
She added, “Every market is different. Where we are in Pennsylvania, Europe is pretty foreign. So, it’s exciting to get people in here making inquiries.”
At the moment, McLaughlin is putting together an FIT trip to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris for a family of five.
“It’s nice to see people with families wanting to do something out of the ordinary. They’re willing to go to a place where they don’t speak the language. They see a value in learning about a different culture and exposing their kids to that,” said Mc Laughlin.
Collette’s Family Vacations Abroad tap into that same mindset.
“You see a lot of families on all of our tours. But not every tour is going to appeal to them. We wanted to refine the concept a little,” Collette Vacations Director of Strategic Product Jaclyn Leibl-Cote tells Travel Agent.
Family Vacations Abroad include activities, adventures and enough free time to appeal to the family market. Departing June through August, they include an Italy Family Discovery. The nine-day tour to Venice, Florence and Rome includes activities such as a scavenger hunt, pasta making and pizza-tossing lessons.
An eight-day London and Paris Family Adventure includes a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Harry Potter set and dining at the Eiffel Tower. And on a Shades of Ireland Family Discovery, guests tour Dublin by amphibious vehicle and take an archery lesson at Dromoland Castle.
The key, said Leibl-Cote, is designing tours that parents and grandparents will enjoy as well.
“Obviously where the kids want to go is a huge piece of it. But you do have to find the right mix. Parents will enjoy watching the kids on a scavenger hunt or making a pizza. But they also want a nice meal and glass of wine,” said Leibl-Cote.
Collette enjoyed record years in 2013 and 2014. Numbers are up slightly in 2015, with Europe remaining the overall top-seller.
“You go to Europe for the history. But we try to add some information that will make it more exciting or interesting for kids. Our local guides also put a different spin on it for the family market. It’s a formula that works pretty well for the all-important summer season,” said Leibl-Cote.
At Insight Vacations, the emphasis is on unique itineraries.
“We’re always looking for the next unique thing. Even if it’s a mainstream destination like Italy, we like to offer something no one else is doing,” Insight Director of National Accounts - West Janet Anderson tells Travel Agent.
New for 2015 is a Signature Hotels program that highlights iconic and historic properties throughout Europe.
“We have over 60 signature hotels. They’re places like the Kempinksi Vienna, Hotel Bristol in Croatia and the Saint James Albany Paris Hotel Spa, right across from the Louvre,” said Anderson.
While accommodations are important, it’s the overall experience that matters most. Insight is known for its many different travel styles, appealing to families based on interest, budget and ages of the group.
“These days, the child in the group may be 25,” said Anderson.
At the moment, Insight offers more than a dozen options for families interested in Italy. Spain and Portugal are currently in big demand as well, said Anderson.
And for clients seeking extra bragging rights?
Insight’s Country Roads of Croatia program is extremely popular. And a Principalities of Europe tour visits Barcelona, Avignon, Provence, Monaco and the Cinque Terre region.
“It’s like taking a Mediterranean cruise while on land,” said Anderson.