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The forecast for this summer’s European travel season is nearly as bright as the sun on Spain’s Costa Del Sol as the continent looks on track to fully return to—or perhaps exceed—where it was in 2019.So with this year’s much-anticipated peak season just about to kick into high gear, we thought it was time to take stock of some of the most important trends on the continent to keep an eye out for this summer alongside some insight from a few important voices in the European travel world.
All over Europe, we are consistently seeing travelers seek out a more profound connection to the communities and sights they are visiting. And it’s showing in what tours & excursions they are booking. Adam Lawless, Director of Communications of Viator told TravelPulse that “U.S. travelers are likely to seek out historical tours, cultural-driven experiences, and outdoor adventures—activities that have ranked among the most popular amongst our 2023 Viator Experience Awards.”
Just a few of the many examples of these more culturally-driven experiences include the continent’s large contingent of food tours & cooking classes, offbeat & quirky experiences that cover a wide range of niches and nature-based excursions—often with a focus on sustainability.
Grotesque on York Minster (Photo Credit: Scott Hartbeck)
Tours and experiences that offer a peak behind the curtain of a popular tourist sight or world-famous art gallery are also growing in popularity as they sit at the confluence of digging deeper into a destination while also providing an exclusive experience perfect for doing a little bit of bragging with on the socials.A fine example of this can be found at York Minster, the famous cathedral in my home of York, England. There is now a Scaffolding Tour that allows travelers to meet the Minster's stonemasons and watch them work before ascending the scaffolding to get an up-close view of ongoing improvements and come face to face with both medieval and modern stonework & grotesques. Or, how about at the Vatican in Rome, where the Clavigero Tour allows you to "open" up the Vatican Museums with the Master of the Keys and see sights like the Sistine Chapel without any crowds. Bottom line: the hop-on-hop-off bus tour is still going strong, but travelers are craving experiences that peel back the layers of the place they’re visiting through immersive, “slower” experiences that also make them feel, well, a little bit special.
Echoing recent TravelPulse coverage, Euromonitor has recently reported that “Consumer values are filtering through to every aspect of their lifestyles where, increasingly, the choice of trip reflects the interests, beliefs and attitudes of consumers. Values-based offers such as sports, wellness and eco-tourism are all expected to outperform standard packages over 2023-2027, with average value growth of over 12% per year.”
At nearly every turn of the European travel experience, travelers are faced with choices and more and more of them are opting to go with brands and experiences that line up with their values. Sometimes, this will be a tour provider which is up-front about being culturally and environmentally conscious, other times it may just be opting to take part in excursions that impact a particular community in an overwhelmingly positive way. A prime example of this would be travelers who value environmental impact choosing to travel by train and stay in one destination longer.
Train on the scenic Semmering Railway in Austria. (Photo via Miroslav Volek / Flickr)
Much has been made of the resurgence of rail travel and nowhere is more synonymous with train travel than Europe.
But do the numbers support the hype? Sure looks like it. On the subject, Jody Bauer, Research Analyst at Eurail said “The appetite for train travel is having a significant comeback with travelers embracing a slower way to explore everything Europe has to offer. We clearly see this at Eurail as we continue to welcome a growing number of American travelers surpassing 2019 as well as all other overseas markets. With an expanding rail network, improved infrastructure and new night trains, European train travel is sure to continue growing in popularity for years to come."
According to the Long Haul Travel Barometer 2023, which is an initiative from the European Travel Commission and Eurail B.V., “US travelers have an increased interest in commuting by rail on their next European adventure. This is due to the overall affordability, convenience, comfort, safety and flexibility that comes with exploring the continent by train. Additionally, American travelers cite the demand for slow adventures as one of their top 5 activities when traveling overseas, fully experienced with borderless rail travel” Or in other words, travelers are all aboard.
E-scooters. E-bikes. E-tuk tuks. It’s all going electric these days and it's shaking up how travelers get around major European cities—and even explore the countryside.
In the Alps, e-bikes are opening up mountain biking to those who would otherwise miss out and in the continent’s metropolises, e-scooters and bikes are making it easier to explore neighborhoods outside of the city center.
Waterfront in Old Town Stockholm with Sweden's national flag in the foreground. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/f11photo)
After several summers worth of headlines about headache-inducing crowds and sunburn-inducing heat waves across Europe, it seems that a healthy chunk of travelers is taking the hint and heading to locales where crowds are thinner and the air is fresher. Lawless added “For those looking to have their European summer experience while avoiding larger crowds, we’re seeing hidden gems like Norway, Malta, and Finland grow in popularity. ”For further evidence of weather-focused bookings, look no further than EF Go Ahead Tours, which has seen a large increase in bookings to destinations in Europe with much milder summers. A representative for the company recently told TravelPulse that “bookings for future travel to Scandinavian countries have more than doubled in the past three months compared to bookings during the same time last year, and bookings to countries like the UK and Ireland are also up significantly.”But it’s not that people travelers are completely giving up on warmer locales, oh no, far from it, but when it comes to some of the hottest destinations like Spain, Portugal and Italy, many travelers are shifting the dates of their trips. Regarding those countries, EF Go Ahead is seeing “a significant increase in bookings during the off-season (cooler months) for these countries specifically suggesting travelers are opting to experience these gems outside of summer’s record temps."
Sure, many travelers will be bound to peak season due to work or school, but those who aren't are doing their best to avoid the hottest conditions on the continent.
Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...
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