All eyes are on the Eurozone this week, and the high-stakes game that is the Greek financial crisis. Long lines at ATMs are a cautionary sign that travelers (among other precautions) should take extra cash.
As of last week, members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) indicated that tour programs are proceeding as usual in Greece. Whether that remains the case as this week unfolds remains to be seen.
One thing is clear, though. The already-weakened Euro has proved a boon for Europe sales. Thus far, the financial crisis in Greece hasn’t affected interest in other parts of the continent.
“Clients are definitely excited about the stronger dollar against the Euro,” David Rubin tells Travel Agent. Rubin is CEO, travel consultant and general counsel for DavidTravel in Corona del Mar, CA. He specializes in customized, luxury travel.
“Clients often have parameters for what they want to spend per night. If their budget is $750, I may now be able to confirm them in a suite. They’re able to stay in a better room in their chosen hotel,” said Rubin.
Which countries are popular at the moment?
“Scandinavia is always popular with our clients. Iceland is, as well. They’re popular with clients who want to have an active summer experience with the kids. Destinations such as Norway, Finland and Sweden are in demand with families,” said Rubin.
When it comes to Norway, there’s one slight challenge, said Richard Harris, senior vice president of product content and operations for Abercrombie & Kent.
“Everyone wants to know where Arendelle is,” Harris tells Travel Agent.
Indeed, the fictional setting of last year’s hit Disney animated film, “Frozen” remains a huge draw.
“We’ve had a big demand for Norway to see the castle outside of Bergen that inspired the movie. There’s also so much else, such as traditional Norwegian house painting and the amazing little wooden churches. Kids are fascinated to go to Norway to see these things. It’s great to excite their imagination. And of course, other parts of Scandinavia are gems, such as Denmark,” said Harris.
Tour operator Cox & Kings introduced new four-day, three-night Spotlight Journeys this year. Offerings include Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, Reykjavik and Copenhagen.
Harry Dalgaard, president and founder of Avanti Destinations, agrees that “Frozen” has definitely heightened interest in Scandinavia.
“Baltic Sea cruises are another reasons we’re seeing tremendous growth in Copenhagen, Stockholm and with Norway. It’s the multi-generational interest that’s so strong,” said Dalgaard.
As for other trends in Europe, Rubin is seeing increasing interest in Belgium.
“It’s a great place for foodies right now,” said Rubin.
Otherwise, Rubin’s clients are eager to experience newer hotels in key cities.
“I have a client who’s been a client of the Georges V in Paris for years. But now, he wants to try the Peninsula, which opened last year. In London, the renovations in the reopened Lanesborough are attracting lots of interest as well,” said Rubin.
The latter overlooks Hyde Park on the borders of Knightsbridge and Belgravia. Closed since the end of 2013 for a complete renovation, it celebrated a soft launch on July 1 as a member of the Oetker Collection.
“Europe has so much to offer the luxury client. I don’t see any decrease in interest at all,” said Rubin.