Travel Trends Keep Europe Tour Ops Busy



Travel to Europe increased by eight percent this summer over last, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. Though interest doesn’t seem to wane, demographics and booking trends are constantly in flux.


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“I’m a Boomer. My philosophy has always been that we’ll serve the Boomer that wants to travel independently and immerse himself in a new culture,” Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti Destinations, tells Travel Agent.

“Since we’re a wholesaler, we don’t have all the profiles on the traveler that the retail travel agent does. But we’ve been collecting age statistics for passport information for the flights. What we’ve found is that fifty percent of our travelers are under 50,” said Dalgaard.

Of those under 50, a large majority are Millennials going through traditional travel agent channels.

“They realize the value, professionalism, security and time savings they get from going through a retail travel agent,” said Dalgaard.

Millennials, notes Dalgaard, “are willing to step out a little bit and be more adventurous in their travel.”

In addition to Millennials, Avanti is seeing an increase in multi-room bookings.

“We’re seeing more families and more friends traveling together. It might be six couples. They don’t want to be in large groups but they enjoy traveling together,” Kim Williams tells Travel Agent. Williams is regional sales director, west, for Avanti Destinations.

Yet another surprising trend, says Dalgaard, is the number of last-minute bookings the company is seeing.

“This is something dramatically different from last year. Fifty percent of our bookings made in August so far are for travel within sixty days. But we’re also seeing spring bookings. Around September people decide what they’re going to do for President’s Day,” said Dalgaard.

Clients will have some added options for 2016. Avanti has a major announcement in the works about its Europe programs.


Berkeley, CA-based Backroads is also expanding its Europe product.

Founded as an active cycling company in 1979, Backroads now offers Walking & Hiking Tours and Multi-Sport Tours as well. One of the company’s biggest demographic trends is growth in the family segment.

“Our Family Breakaway Trips are designed for families with older teens and twenty-somethings. They’re offered during school holiday periods. There’s a little less programming. And trip leaders tend to be younger, more like peers,” company spokesperson Liz Einbinder tells Travel Agent.

The product is so popular that Backroads is expanding its offerings by 30 percent. Joining Family Breakaway trips in Tuscany and Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast are new tours in England, the Basque region of France and Spain, Croatia and Montenegro.

Also new for next year are Waking & Hiking Tours in Brittany & Normandy, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, as well as Piedmont and Portofino. New Multisport Tours will be available from Croatia to Montenegro as well as Provence.

Cycling is still the core Backroads product, however. And the company has come a long way since its early days of selling California-based trips. New bike tours are planned through England, the French Pyrenees and Spain's Rioja Region; and from Parma to Verona.

Trips are geared for different levels of ability.

“If someone wants a hard-core, hilly and challenging trip, our customer service agents will work with them. Our cycling trips all have options for shorter or longer rides or an additional ride after lunch. We almost always have at least two vans along for more flexibility,” said Einbinder.

One trend that’s really taken hold since introduced last year: eBikes.

“We found that a lot of times, one spouse is really into cycling. The other is just along for the ride so to speak. The eBikes really come in handy in those situations. They’re super trendy in Europe right now. They can definitely add to the enjoyment factor,” said Einbinder.