NEW YORK — Travel advisors are already saying that, like last summer, Europe is proving so popular this year that elite travelers who haven’t booked yet may be out of luck.
The continent is a perennial favorite summer holiday destination, but even advisers have been overwhelmed by the surge of travelers crossing the pond since pandemic-related travel restrictions were lifted last year.
The consultants are predicting a similarly busy season this year and are suggesting their customers consider alternative destinations in Europe and less busy travel times.
The popularity of Europe—especially Italy—was a hot topic during a recent panel with travel advisors from Global Travel Collection (GTC), the luxury division of Internova Travel Group (No. 9 on Travel Weekly’s 2022 Power List).
“Europe is still hotter than ever right now,” said Josh Alexander, a New York-based advisor at Protravel. “I mean, Europe has always been No. 1 for us for American travelers, especially for summer travel, and this year is no different.”
Alexander said last year’s hit season in Europe had created an interesting phenomenon in 2023. Last year, travelers found themselves blocked from the continent if they didn’t book early.
“The hotels weren’t available or the prices were too high for them, so it led to this kind of FOMO mentality – fear of missing out – where people were approaching us at the end of last summer to plan this summer,” he said. .
Joshua Greenberg, director of GTC affiliate G Squared Travel, said that given the high demand for travel in general this summer, he was focusing on booking customers in advance or getting them to consider alternative destinations.
“If you haven’t booked Europe by now, then you’re going to start finding places, dates, where there’s just no availability,” he said, adding that last summer tour operators and destination management companies actually refused business and said they didn’t have a supply of cars. drivers and guides in Italy “which we had never heard before”.
Alexander noted that many hotels have moved to dynamic pricing and that consumers are beginning to understand the fact that they can pay less if they book earlier, encouraging further bookings. Flexible cancellation policies have also given travelers more confidence to book early.
Global Travel Collection Advisory Panel on Travel Trends held at the Peninsula Hotel in New York. Photo: Carmine Iallonardo
Italy is hotter than ever
Karen Magee, senior vice president of In the Know Experiences, said there is high demand for Italy in particular, even beyond its historical popularity.
“We used to say that if you can build another Italy, we can sell it, and that’s 10 times truer now,” she said.
The Travel Siblings, a GTC affiliate owned by brother-sister duo Harlan deBell and Cara Bebel, specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons (It is an official travel partner of the Registry at Bloomingdale’s, providing travel benefits and amenities to registered couples. )
This year, DeBel said, “Italy is very oversaturated.” As a result, the new hot destination for weddings is Spain’s Balearic Islands.
Elisa Goldman, founding partner attaché of In the Know at NinthFlr, is a fan of encouraging clients to travel to popular destinations like Italy in the off-season. She also recommends other destinations including Spain, Portugal, Malta, Croatia and Guatemala.
“There’s a lot more to it than what everyone thinks, and people get really stuck in the idea that they have to be in this one place,” Goldman said. “It limits them to their experience. It’s really nice to go when the whole world isn’t there either.’
Offering diverse destinations is a common strategy for Curtis Parris, managing director of corporate, leisure and luxury travel at Parris Group, a Protravel affiliate. He often offers Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean when they suit the client’s needs.
Summer is in full swing
GTC advisers said travel bookings were generally booming this summer.
Among other hot spots, several advisers said, is Japan, which just reopened to travel last fall.
Goldman and Greenberg said demand in Japan is catching up to that in Italy. With that, Greenberg said, comes some of the problems Italy had last summer, such as companies turning away business due to lack of availability. “Japan was like that this year,” he said.
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Angie Lisea, president of GTC, said another type of travel that is proving popular this year is small ship cruising, especially on expedition and river ships. The trends there are “very strong,” she said, adding that in 2022, a third of cruise inventory will come from ships described as smaller, with up to 1,000 passengers.
GTC also noticed that a number of customers choosing smaller ships are first-timers on cruise ships and that the age of cruise ships in general is declining, with millennials being the fastest-growing demographic on cruise ships.
With GTC’s “tremendous growth” in cruises combined with other demand, it’s shaping up to be a solid year, Licea said.
“When we went into 2023, going into the first quarter, we were very optimistic, and that hasn’t changed,” Licea said. “Luxury travel leads the way.”