NEW YORK -- With the exception of some high-end business, most
travel agents are experiencing either flat or reduced volume to
Europe this year, a Travel Weekly survey of retailers found.
Queries to agents followed the news that the European Travel
Commission, the marketing organization here, reduced by 50% its
expectations for travel to Europe in 2001.
And Einar Gustavsson, U.S. chairman of the commission, conceded
that the scaled-back forecast, from 4% growth to 2%, "probably is a
What's behind the bad news? Eight consecutive record-breaking
years, for one thing. As the U.S. economy grew steadily through the
'90s, travel to Europe grew with it, from 7.6 million visitors in
1993 to 13.1 million last year, according to the U.S. Dept. of
Commerce's Office of Tourism Industries.
But this year, the disastrous impact of hoof-and-mouth disease
on Great Britain tourism, which accounts for 30% of all travel to
Europe, is being compounded by sluggish economies here and
Ann Litt, president of Undiscovered Britain & Ireland in
Philadelphia, described March and April as "devastating" for summer
travel to Great Britain.
For the first time in her seven years in business, Litt said she
sold more travel to Ireland than Great Britain.
"However, I have been getting some major inquiries recently for
Britain again, so I think that people are starting to want to [go]
there," she added.
Cecil Wilson, owner of Charleston Travel and Cruise Center in
Charleston, S.C., and president-elect of Travel Agents of the
Carolinas, said his agency is "doing fewer budget packages, but
more higher-dollar items."
"I guess it stands to reason that those who normally travel
still are doing it," he said.
Consumer confidence across the U.S. seems to depend largely on
the local economy. For example, Yvonne Speck, a retailer with the
Travel Advisors of Reno, Nev., said her region, which does not have
a large technology industry, has not suffered as much as San
Francisco, the largest city nearest her firm.
"I don't notice anyone holding back as far as spending money on
travel," she said.
Stan Morse, president of the Hudson Valley ASTA chapter and
co-owner of Marstan Travel in Millbrook, N.Y., knows the effect of
layoffs very well, as a former IBM human resources employee who
left the company after seeing it through a "tremendous downsizing"
The effects of those layoffs, he said, are still being felt in
the area. Morse said he believes that the recent economic troubles
here are likely to affect European travel in the near future.
"It'll be interesting to us to see what happens this fall," he
said, "because if the market goes south and the economy goes down,
it will affect travel next summer, there's no doubt about
Morse added that he has already seen a slowing in domestic
Neal Kraemer, president of Carrousel Travel in Minneapolis and
past president of the ASTA Upper Midwest chapter, said his firm is
"definitely having a soft year for Europe travel," adding that he
thought the economy is having a greater impact than many
"I have talked with numerous agency owners in the Midwest and
around the country," Kraemer said. "It seems like everyone has
indicated the same thing [about the economy's impact on Europe
sales], and I would think [the] 2% growth [predicted by the
European Travel Commission] might be a stretch."
Something, however, is working well in Alabama. Nick Smith,
owner and manager of Custom Travel in Atmore, Ala., was the only
agent surveyed who reported a sizeable increase in travel to
Europe, about 10% through June compared with 2000.
ETC: Media hype from euro's debut to raise
NEW YORK -- Travel to Europe will get a shot in the arm this
fall from the media hype expected to precede the launch of the euro
as street currency in 12 countries in January, Einar Gustavsson,
U.S. chairman of the European Travel Commission, said.
Gustavsson also predicted that lower air fares, being marketed
now, will help to lure travelers this fall.
Meanwhile, most European tourist boards reported U.S. business
is up by varying accounts, although numbers for the U.K. and
Ireland are down. The disappointing U.K. results are tied to the
widespread outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease earlier this
Here's a sampling of some recent reports. (All comparisons are
with the same period in 2000.)Austria. Room nights booked by U.S. visitors from January
through May were up 7.5%, to more than 500,000.
Denmark. U.S. room nights were up 14.6% for the first five
months of the year.
Finland. U.S. overnights were up 2.3% through May.
France. U.S. arrivals are expected to rise 5% this year.
Germany. U.S. room nights from January through April were up
Great Britain. Tourism authorities are bracing for 2001 visitor
totals to be down by 10%, to 20%. The outbreak of hoof-and-mouth
disease, which forced temporary travel restrictions in rural areas,
is widely blamed for the decrease.
Iceland. U.S. room nights rose about 8% for the first six
months of the year.
Ireland. The January-through-May average amounted to a 2% drop
in U.S. room nights booked.
Malta. U.S. arrivals rose 5% for the January-through-April
Norway. A 3% to 4% increase in U.S. overnights is predicted for
Portugal. A 4% increase in U.S. arrivals overall is expected
Switzerland. U.S. bed nights dropped by 1% through May.
Turkey. U.S. arrivals are up 4% through June.
Kenneth Kiesnoski contributed to this report.