Travel to Europe is setting records this summer, in more ways than one as one of the busiest European travel season ever is being met by a brutal heat wave that’s causing extreme temperatures across the region.
Last week, the Italian government issued red alerts for 16 cities including Rome, Florence, and Bologna advising that even healthy people could be at risk from the heat. That was followed by a string of temperatures, all near record high, through Greece, Italy, France, and Spain.
Still, by and large, travel advisors TMR spoke with said the heat isn't stopping their clients from traveling.
"People are willing to travel and the crowds or heat won't stop them," said Suzy Mkhitarian, manager of M.S. Travel & Tours, a TRAVELSAVERS affiliate. "They know its high season… they are taking into consideration the heat and stick to more beach destinations such as Amalfi, Mykonos, Croatia, and Cannes."
Robin Cline, owner and founder of Cline & Co Travel Consulting, a Virtuoso agency, said so far none of her clients in Europe have been affected "yet" nor has anyone wanted to change their plans.
Marguerite Scully of the EMBARK Collective, also a Virtuoso agency, echoed Cline.
"I have many clients traveling to Italy and Greece this summer and no one has altered plans. However, I did schedule tours in early morning to beat the heat and give the afternoon to enjoy a pool at the hotel or beach time depending on where they are traveling."
Scully said she also recommends nighttime tours as there's usually less crowds and "definitely cooler temps."
Speaking of nighttime tours, Adam Duckworth, president and founder of Travelmation, a Travel Leaders Network affiliate, told TMR, "We just had a client who was in Italy for 12 days and we had to do some major in-destination work because of the heat, including moving almost all of their tours to the evening, especially the Coliseum."
Another Travelmation advisor had a couple decide to spend part of their day in Italy in their hotel room to escape the heat, Duckworth said.
Jennifer Schwartz, managing partner of Authentic Explorations, told TMR they have some clients canceling activities as well.
"Now that it's hot out, people are canceling activities and just hanging out by the pool. People who are here [in Italy] are taking it slower."
While not all clients are changing their plans due to the heat, several advisors said they're taking the time to talk to their clients about how to deal with the heat.
"Our agents are briefing their clients on the heat in their pre-arrival communications," said Duckworth. "Encouraging the proper hydration methods, as well."
"Pack loose lightweight breathable clothing that dries quickly, have a hat with a good wide brim, take a refillable water bottle… carry an umbrella to create your own shade," are some of the tips Cline gives her clients.
She also suggests bringing a fan (cruise-ship approved if a cruise is part of your itinerary). "A/C unites in Europe generally don't function as well as ours," she added.
Schwartz also advises clients to plan activities in the early mornings and late evenings and suggests that people "apply rainy day theories to hot days as well." For instance, clients can spend the hot time of the day in museums or do long lunches in air-conditioned restaurants.
For tour operators, it largely depends on each individual company as to whether or not they’ve made changes, but even the ones who haven’t told TMR that they are prepared to do so if need be.
Perillo Tours, with a lot of itineraries in some of the most impacted areas by the heat wave, hasn’t made any changes.
“Tour operation doesn’t change. Perillo books tickets for its groups in advance, so entrance times must be respected. Most of the tours, however, are early morning or late afternoon. Perillo Tours only uses hotels with air conditioning. Water is provided to guests on the coaches, and frequent stops for breaks - restroom and to purchase refreshments – are made throughout the tour,” a spokesperson for Perillo told TMR.
The Travel Corporation also has not had to make any changes.
Collette, too, said no changes have been made, though it allows its tour operators to make changes on the fly if needed. Intrepid, on the other hand, has made changes to a number of its European itineraries mostly because of the closures of some of the sites on tour.
“Our teams across Europe are closely monitoring the heat waves. The situation is serious and undoubtedly having an impact on tourism, with popular attractions like the Acropolis in Athens temporarily closing last week during peak heat hours and red alerts also in place for most of Italy and Spain,” Intrepid’s Matt Berna told TMR.
“Activities in certain areas have been moved to different times of the day to better manage the heat and our leaders are doing everything they can to make accommodations and ensure the utmost safety of our travelers, while reminding them to stay hydrated and in the shade. We encourage all European travelers to exercise caution and plan accordingly as they navigate the heat,” he said.
Berna added that Intrepid, as the largest travel B Corp., is committed to taking action to reduce its environmental impact, something that has been a trend in the industry. Berna also said that travelers who are worried about the heat can choose to travel during the off seasons to avoid it, which also comes with the benefit of avoiding crowds.
“Choosing to travel during the upcoming fall shoulder season is one way that travelers can avoid the intense heat and expect to find lower prices. Amid still warm temperatures and plenty of lively festivals, such as Oktoberfest in Germany, the fall is a fantastic time to visit Europe. Intrepid has plenty of tours departing at this time to choose from,” he said.