Americans are eager to leave America behind. Finally, the U.S. no longer requires air passengers returning to the States to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from the virus before they board their flight. This positive news coupled with a weakening pandemic has people searching the web, calling their travel agents and packing their bags to once again enjoy a sojourn overseas.
According to a study of more than 40,000 spring 2022 flight itineraries by travel insurance and assistance company Allianz Partners, travel to Europe this summer will be up 600 percent over 2021 as more destinations reopen for business to meet a growing demand. And these travelers can afford it. The Washington Post recently reported that Americans have banked an estimated $2.4 trillion in extra savings from enforced idleness during the pandemic.
“People now really want to take those trips they had to cancel or put on hold for so long,” notes Lisa Skriloff, founder and editor of Multicultural Travel News, a publication that tracks news from destinations, cultural institutions and multicultural travelers. "As always, Europe is top-of-mind.”
Gateways to a destination’s culture
Amidst all the attractions awaiting visitors, the great museums of Paris, Rome, Vienna and other famed European cities beckon with unparalleled holdings vividly highlighting the creative impulse of humanity at its best. “We want to immerse ourselves in culture by direct contact again,” Skriloff notes. "Nothing beats a live experience as opposed to sitting home and staring at a screen, and today’s museums make for fabulous experiences that reveal the true soul of the destination.”
“I’m a museum nut, and so are most of my clients,” says Joanne Hunt, owner of Pompton Plains Travel based in Pompton Plains, N.J., and the New Jersey chapter president of the American Society of Travel Advisors. “It’s hard to describe the awe people feel in, say, the Goya room at the Prado Museum in Madrid.”
Haus der Musik © Wendi Gessner
Creative interactive experiences
Like many such institutions, Vienna’s Haus Der Musik (House of Music) offers interactive elements that enhance the experience in ways that go beyond simply viewing. Here, an interactive computer program lets visitors mix and match musical notes with letters of the alphabet in an inventive game devised in 1787 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (For more on the Haus Der Musik and other top Viennese museums, see sidebar.)
Of course, a number of so-called immersive shows mounted by museums on-site and traveling the world put the public literally in the middle of works by Klimt, Kahlo and other art masters.
Fun for all
“We’re finding that all the new and newly reopened museums in Europe are a major draw for many of our travelers,” says Ashley Ganz, founder of Artisans of Leisure, a New York City-based company specializing in private customized international travel. “The facilities are so family friendly.”
Case in point: Mozarthaus Vienna communicates the life and works of Mozart through a variety of creative programs that appeal to young and old alike. An informal puzzle rally is a fun way for children to discover the museum and show what they've learned. Additionally, themed tours, concerts and workshops tell the story of this famous composer that are unique and interactive.
An affordable way to experience priceless culture
Similar to offerings here in the States, the top cities of Europe make it easy and affordable to experience local culture by offering visitors special discount passes. The Vienna Card, for example, provides special deals at some 190 museums, theaters, shops and restaurants throughout the historic Austrian capital, including public transportation. “At least two-thirds of my European clients ask about these passes,” notes Joanna Hunt.
As summed up by Hunt, “All the stars are in alignment for a renaissance in European travel. The dropped requirement for a return negative Covid test will be a big help in drawing people overseas, and so many travelers are more than ready to resume searching for their cultural roots or simply experiencing the unique fun that Europe has to offer.” Museums, in particular, offer both the culture and the fun.