Many consortia and agencies are reporting an overall
softness in Europe sales this year, largely attributable to the string of
incidents that have occurred there, but they said some countries, particularly
Iceland, are still performing very well.
John Werner, president of MAST Travel Network, and Libbie
Rice, co-president of Ensemble Travel Group, both reported Europe sales being
down in the 10% range year-over-year.
Rice said that most who booked travel before many incidents
(such as March’s terrorist attack on the airport in Brussels or, more recently,
the July attack in Nice) did not cancel their plans. However, the first quarter
of the year, a prime time to book Europe travel, was slower than average.
Werner said FIT trips have been the hardest hit, and first-time
Europe travelers seem more hesitant to go.
“They don’t have a sense of the geographic size of Europe
and have a hard time putting things into perspective,” he said.
Mike Estill, chief operating officer of the Western
Association of Travel Agencies, said FIT business has been flat year over year,
“but we had definitely expected it to be a better year than we’re seeing.”
Similarly, at Signature Travel Network, executive vice
president Ignacio Maza said Europe sales “have not been as robust as they have
been in years past.”
But despite the slowdown, especially in Turkey, which most
said is attracting almost no business for the remainder of the year, some
European countries are performing very well. Iceland tops that list for most.
The U.K. is also doing well. Kimberly Wilson Wetty,
co-president and co-owner of Valerie Wilson Travel, said there is both
interest, “and great value,” in U.K. travel, especially considering the value
of the U.S. dollar versus the pound following the U.K.’s vote to leave the
As for other areas of the globe, Alaska is enjoying
increased popularity, Rice said, as are more exotic locations like Tahiti that
travelers might view as safe relative to all that has recently occurred in
Back within Europe, Maza said, Ireland, Portugal,
Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe are up
compared with 2015.
Overall, Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer for
Travelsavers, NEST and the Affluent Traveler Collection, said she is seeing a
change in booking behavior for Europe.
“The booking window for Europe has shortened by several
months,” she said. “In the past, people would book nine months out. Now, it is
less than six months. The general mindset of waiting for last-minute deals and
safety concerns is influencing travel to Europe.”
Rice predicted that so long as any future incidents do not
occur at a high volume, Europe will rebound.
“It is becoming the new norm, and there are always some
people who are not going to travel regardless of what’s going on,” she said. “I
think those that are sophisticated travelers, I think they will continue to
travel. It’s healthy for everybody, so hopefully that trend will continue in
terms of people persevering and not being scared.”