Travcoa recently shared its 10 most popular European travel tours for 2014, curated from guest feedback.
Travcoa's Vice President of Business Development & Product Innovation Cathy Holler told Travel Agent people are looking for off-the-beaten-path itineraries, but are "sensitive" to prices. The Romania and Bulgaria tour, she said is popular for those seeking hidden gems who don't want to pay a fortune. The region, she added, is "one of those places that hasn't been on the radar for the U.S. market. It's not overrun and it's very economical."
Off-the-beaten-path also applied for Italy travel, she noted. "Our client comments from each of our Italy itineraries always ranks amongst the highest of any destination," she said, citing a comment from a past guest: “It’s important to observe history and art, but experiencing the way people live their everyday lives is just as important as seeing a masterpiece...I love the history and the art, but most of all, I love the small, out-of-the-way towns and the people that make their homes there."
Holler said the Dine-Around program is especially popular on the Italian tours. This lets guests eat wherever they want, in the hotel or outside of the hotel, with no spending limits. "So they can enjoy a pizza a local pizzeria or enjoy the finest gourmet dinner in a top Michelin-starred restaurant. They just pay the bill, bring it back to our travel director and they are reimbursed for their meal (except for alcohol and caviar) once they return home." Worth knowing: Travcoa offers three escorted journeys to Italy as well as several pre-designed, private tours. Customized tours are also available.
Iceland has proven to be an unexpectedly popular destination, which Holler credits to the recent film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. "Actually, every week we're getting bookings," she noted. The company used to offer escorted tours to Iceland but eventually dropped them from the catalogue last year. "Now that we're seeing new demand, we're bringing it back with a combination tour of Iceland and Greenland [for 2015]."
Travcoa's most popular European tours for 2014 are:
Mystery, Legend & Tradition: Romania & Bulgaria – Visitors can travel through Romania and learn about Dracula at Bran, a gothic fortress on the edge of the Transylvania's moors. In Bulgaria, Europe’s oldest Christian state, they explore the ancient trade routes that enriched Eastern Europe.
The Royal Scotsman & Military Tattoo: Scotland – Visitors can see Scotland’s rugged landscape aboard the super-swank Royal Scotsman train, and journey to Edinburgh to watch the Military Tattoo—an extraordinary concert event.
The Ultimate Italy Experience: Splendors of Sicily, Italy’s Heart & Soul, and Sole, Mare e Vino – Any one of these journeys is exciting in its own right, but a trifecta of back-to-back-to-back excursions is a top pick. Visitors can see the art collection at the Vatican or taste cannolo, Sicily’s most popular dessert.
Images of Ireland – Visitors on this tour can kiss the Blarney Stone and discover the 4th-century Rock of Cashel church and tower. They can also take in the landscape on a drive along the 40-mile Ring of Kerry.
Kingdom of Sicily – Once a Greek colony, a Roman province, an Arab emirate, and a Norman kingdom, Sicily has been a melting pot of cultures for 6,000 years. On this tour, visitors can explore Sicily’s ancient temples and ornate Baroque churches.
Seductive Spain – Experience Spain’s rich heritage of art and architecture on a journey that touches the cornerstones of Spanish civilization. Among other highlights, visitors can walk the halls of El Prado (Spain’s top art museum) and study the unique fusion of Moorish and Christian architecture in Granada.
Polish Odyssey – On this tour, explorers can see the towering spires and parapets of Poland's cathedrals and churches, including Malbork Castle, a Gothic masterpiece. They can also tour Warsaw and discover its wartime history.
Highlights of Iceland – Visitors on this excursion can get up close to glaciers and fjords, and learn about Iceland’s local history and culture at farms, workshops, and in the capital of Reykjavík.