A few months into 2015, some trends have already emerged when it comes to Europe sales. Travel Agent spoke with some experts to get a sense of where the momentum is going.
At Artisans of Leisure longer trips are in hot demand.
Company owner Ashley Ganz tells Travel Agent, “So many travelers want three or more weeks within Europe. And they want to combine a lot of different countries. So that’s become our specialty at the moment,” said Ganz.
Another trend is an increased interest in special-needs access.
“We’re getting more requests to accommodate travel for those needing assistance. It may be a mobility issue, a health concern or a child with autism. We’re going to feature more of those services on our website,” said Ganz.
Destination-wise, Ganz finds people are looking for unusual combinations, such as France, Italy and Istanbul.
“Culinary tours are in extremely high demand. And we’re seeing lots of family travel to London incorporating new activities such as the Tower Bridge walk, Harry Potter ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours and The Shard,” said Ganz.
Kay Juran, a travel consultant with Nob Hill Travel in Portland, OR tells Travel Agent that she is dealing with “lots of pent-up demand at the moment.”
“We’re working seven days a week. The recession is easing and people feel like they deserve a trip to Europe,” said Juran.
Clients, Juran said, are “ moving east to places like the Dalmatian Coast and Dubrovnik. And many want to support the Greeks because they’ve been having such a terrible time there. So Greece is big right now.”
Other tour operators affirmed that perennial favorites such as Italy, France and England remain best-sellers.
“Europe is off the charts,” confirms Jack E. Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays.
“If you look at the Department of Commerce statistics, you see that 95 percent of total Europe visits are to destinations we feature. Places like London, Paris and Rome,” said Richards.
The company has also expanded into luxury Greek Isles and Turkey cruises out of Athens.
At the Globus family of brands, Italy is doing especially well. The new Italian Sampler tour by Globus is the most successful new tour for 2015. Italy is the number one-selling destination for Cosmos, according to Jen Halboth, director of channel marketing.
Halboth also tells Travel Agent that Spain & Portugal tours are up some 10 percent. And the Globus Greece & Turkey tour is showing the highest year-over-year growth in the company.
“Greece and Turkey were off client bucket lists for a while due to local political unrest. Now they’re clearly back on,” said Halboth.
At Contiki Vacations, it’s millennials who are leading the charge to Greece.
The operator has seen a 65 percent increase in interest in its Greek island-hopping tours. It has also just launched new programs in Portugal and Morocco, based on customer feedback.
Agents should note that Contiki has re-categorized its product for 2015.
“Contiki launched eight new ‘Ways to Travel’ to showcase the variety of options available to potential millennial clients,” Vy Spear, public relations manager, tells Travel Agent.
The new approach changes the product focus from accommodations to “travel styles.” Categories include psychographic descriptions, such as “Independent Explorer,” “Easy Pace” and “High Energy.”
Contiki is also redoubling efforts to help agents target the millennial traveler. One example: a recent Travel Agent Millennial Series. The four-part infographic included social media tips and pre-crafted tweets.
Thus far, the strategy is working. Travel agent bookings at Contiki are up by 25 percent. To build upon the trend, Contiki has placed its sales team back on the road. Led by a national sales director, the team plans to conduct agent training classes across the country.
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