Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightBy many accounts, between the London Summer Olympics and the economic crisis in Greece, last year was a challenging one for travel to Europe.

But according to Trafalgar President Paul Wiseman, Europe's down days are over.

"It's one of those rare years where everything just goes right," Wiseman said. "We haven't had too many of those in the past five years."

Wiseman said that in 2013, Europe is close to being back at 2007 (or prerecession) booking levels, with Britain and Ireland leading the charge with a 30% increase in sales in 2013 compared with 2012.

Michelle BaranCentral and Eastern Europe, too, have seen a resurgence, noted Wiseman, with an approximate 50% increase in bookings this year.

"That's the heartland of river cruising, and we had begun to think maybe that business wouldn't turn around," Wiseman said. Wiseman speculated that perhaps the river cruise market "doesn't have enough capacity and it's overflown to us."

Another helpful factor is that airfares appear to be less prohibitive this year than in the past couple of years.

"Any travel agency meeting I've been to this year, air just has not come up as an issue," Wiseman said.

But despite his optimistic figures and outlook for the year, according to the most recent trans-Atlantic report, U.S. travel to Europe was down 3% overall in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, a figure attributed to the U.S. Commerce Department.

But Trafalgar, which initially decreased capacity in 2013 in anticipation of a slow-growth year, has had to go back and contract additional space and will run "a lot more departures this year than last year," Wiseman said. One of the advantages of being a tour operator, he said, is that "we don't have to a build a hotel or build a ship. We can add capacity when the market is hot."

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.

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