Europe will always be a major summer destination, travel agents say, no matter what geopolitical situations arise.
Despite acts of terrorism in Paris and London in the past year, travel agents continue to see sales rise and their client bases expand, agents told Travel Market Report.
“No matter what happens they go," said Jack Bloch of New York-based JB’s World Travel Consultants in New York. “Business people do not change their plans, and Paris and London remain popular for theater and fashion crowds. Sophisticated travelers do not get deterred,” Bloch said.
Bloch added that he does see clients booking later, especially those who have the means to wait until the last minute. “We had eight clients who traveled right after the most recent incident in London and none voiced any concern. Sometimes the best time to go is right after an incident when security is intense,” Bloch added.
Ann Scully of McCabe World Travel said: “Europe is huge for us, and I have been working on it every single day. Paris has totally rebounded, and clients are headed far beyond the big three cities.” The agency also has seen a 15% rise in new clients, she said.
Scully did have one cancellation for London, and she expects that city to take a bit longer to rebound, but she has faith in the rest of the Europe. Croatia, Slovenia, Scotland, Iceland and Puglia, Italy, are selling “off the charts,” she said, and you simply cannot get a room in Edinburgh during Tattoo in August.
Margot Cushing, a counselor at Frosch, said, that while “the rhetoric coming out of the White House has not helped,” a bullish stock market and favorable currency exchange rates are keeping her clients buoyant about travel.
“Paris is the acme of the travel experience, and I have not seen a drop off in bookings to Paris or other parts of Europe,” Cushing said.
Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels in Westport, CT, said, her agency is booking lots of Europe: from destinations like England’s Lake District and the Scottish countryside to Corsica, Mallorca, Sicily, the Swiss Alps, Greek islands, and Scandinavian countries. Iceland bookings are especially strong this year, she said.
“I see some trends among our clients that seem to be reactions to the chaos you find around the world, such as [more] itineraries to the countryside and islands, where clients can seek out wilderness therapy and opportunities to disconnect,” Farewell added.
Some agents see dips
Not all clients are steeled for traveling to a destination after a storm, political or otherwise, and some agents have noticed dips in sales.
“Bookings have definitely slumped. By this time of year [usually] I would be busy booking only Europe, and we haven't seen that at all this year,” said Duff Pacifico, CTC, of Tzell Travel Group.
Camille Pepe Sperrazza, principal of The World Awaits Travel, said she had seen a decline in sales for Europe due to violence and to the Caribbean due to Zika, but sales for European cruises are up for fall sailings.
She added that “those who didn't travel last year for whatever reason, are looking forward to getting away this year.”
What to do in the face of a downturn?
“We are offering alternatives––to Greece, Russia, Norway, Portugal and Iceland this summer,” Pacifico said. “Also, we can suggest spending less time in the big cities and traveling outside the cities––to the south of France, Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Scotland, Ireland.”
Interest in Greece is up
The big shift this summer, according to several agents, is the Eastern Mediterranean––both Greece and Turkey are standouts this summer, they said.
“Greece is the big shift this summer,” Bloch said. He had just returned from a trip to Greece and found new luxury boutique hotels on several islands, including Mykonos, Santorini and Crete. However, he added, hotel inventory is tight in Greece, so clients who like to book close in may have an issue.
Bloch noted other shifts in European travel too. “I see a move toward southern destinations like Sardinia and Sicily.”
Extending their trips
Some clients are taking longer trips.
Scully of McCabe World Travel said many clients are taking seven-day cruises and then adding on. “Clients are adding Puglia or the Amalfi Coast or Lake Como to build their trips into a two-week vacation.”
All the agents who spoke with Travel Market Report said they pass along safety advice to clients headed for Europe: Blend in when you can, use common sense and pay attention to your surroundings.