It may only be the first full week of 2016, but some booking trends have already emerged when it comes to Europe.
“We’re seeing a lot more interest in luxury. Our clients are really looking for a much higher level of experience when they travel. The other trend that’s huge is the desire for authentic experiences and adventure travel,” Stacey Robertson Ray, owner of Groupit Travel in Cary, NC tells Travel Agent.
Ray’s company, Groupit Travel in Cary, NC, is making a big push with operator G Adventures this year.
“We plan to promote them quite a bit. They’re a great fit for the millennial and Gen Y market that wants to immerse themselves in a destination, not just sit around a pool,” said Ray.
Hope Smith, owner of Born to Travel in Sierra Madre, CA says client interest in adventure is practically a given these days.
“Before, you had to cultivate adventure clients. Now people are coming to you, calling and saying ‘we want to do this activity.’ So much of it is adventure driven. It’s soft adventure, but people want it. You don’t have to present it to them first,” Smith tells Travel Agent.
For tour operator Backroads, active travel has broken out of the niche category. The company posted record sales in 2015, offering biking, hiking and multisport trips.
Early bookings for 2016 show an increased demand in multigenerational active travel.
The company’s Family Breakaway Trips were so successful in 2015, they’ve doubled the number of excursions for 2016. The itineraries are designed for families with older teens and twenty-somethings.
Another trend: family groups that include active grandparents. The company has expanded route options to accommodate different ages and athletic abilities.
“One of the biggest things for us heading into 2016 is the use of e-bikes. It has made it easy for people to go on our biking trips together and ride together, or still go at their own paces on the routes. We are also finding e-bikes good for guests who are maybe coming off of an injury who want to cycle, but also want the little extra push that the electric-assist bikes can give them,” company spokesperson Liz Einbinder tells Travel Agent.
For 2016, e-bikes and GPS systems are complimentary on all Backroads Biking Trips in Europe. The company’s walking and hiking trips have taken off as well, says Einbinder. Destinations shaping up to be popular again this year include Iceland and Spain’s Basque country.
For Ray’s clientele, Italy remains the most requested destination, but “Switzerland is also on the move,” she said.
Both countries offer the chance to pair active travel with a luxury setting.
“If clients are going to Venice, the Dolomites are not that far away. Or let’s say they want to do the Amalfi Coast. There are tons of hikes to do there and also in Cinquaterre. Of course in Switzerland, clients can hike all day. They can come back to wonderful hotels for incredible meals, spa service and a great bed, These days, it’s almost mandatory to include something active in the trip,” said Smith.