Travelers are anxiously awaiting the reopening of borders to Europe, and we’re sure you’re anxiously awaiting those bookings, too.
Of course, there are many questions on when that will happen and what will be different, therefore we have gathered some insight on this topic from members of Ensemble Travel Group that was part of a video series for members.
Below are some of the topics they addressed:
What advice are they offering to clients who want to plan a trip to Europe this summer—particularly for those who may still be apprehensive once borders reopen?
- Brian Chima of Chima Travel Bureau suggests that travelers consider destinations that offer natural social distancing such as Ireland and Scotland or even Iceland. “We are working with several clients who still remain hopeful to go this summer and our recommendation is to skip the bigger cities, rent a car and enjoy the beauty of these countries that lies beyond their largest cities. It’s a great way to really experience these countries and is a perfect way to ease back into international travel.”
- Diana Hechler, president of D Tours International, agreed and has plans to travel to Switzerland herself this summer. “Switzerland is an ideal place to go in the early post-COVID travel days because most of what you do there is outdoors anyway. My plan is to spend my time in Zermatt, Lake Geneva and Interlachen and to enjoy the spectacular Alpine scenery. For clients, I’m recommending they do the same whether they are in Italy or France. The museums and other indoor sightseeing attractions aren’t going anywhere—save those for your next trip and use this trip as a reason to get out into the countryside. The same holds true in places like Italy and France. This year, I recommend that people use Rome or Paris mainly as their point of entry and then get to Tuscany and Umbria in Italy or Provence in France.”
- Avery Harris of Viking Travels added that travelers won’t need to go far to find lots of national parks and open spaces right in the major European cities and referenced Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia as another example of getting beyond Dubrovnik to really experience the country. “That said, you don’t have to go far to get some natural social distancing. In Prague, you can enjoy one of the city’s parks right on the way to Lobkowicz Palace. I am also recommending clients visit places like Sweden, Norway and Finland where there is so much outdoor activity and the Scandinavian culture is just naturally socially distant as people don’t really stand next to each other as a cultural norm.”
- All agreed that we’ll know much more by mid-March, but Harris said that while it may be a little uncertain to plan for May or June, he anticipated that by August or September things will be back in full swing.
On Group Travel vs. Traveling On Your Own:
- Harris added, “Doing things as part of an organized group whether it’s a river cruise or organized tour is a great way to travel to Europe this summer as they will know what’s open, what’s safe, be first in the door, etc. In addition, one of the advantages of a company like Ensemble is that we have on location partners who are there on the ground and they really have the best first-hand knowledge of what is happening locally in country. At the same time—particularly for millennials—they are more inclined to rent a car and drive around instead. “If you are comfortable driving on I-95, you’ll be fine driving on the Autobahn.”
- Hechler said, “It’s so easy to rent a car and drive around, but for those who aren’t comfortable with that, I would recommend getting a driver.”
Are clients more worried about safety of traveling to Europe or the experience being compromised?
- Chima said, “The clients who are already planning to travel this summer are likely going to be more concerned about the experience of what’s open as most of them will have already been vaccinated and feel confident about the steps that the hotels, airlines, etc. have taken.”
- Hechler added, “Vaccinations are key—both people getting them and also for staff and crew. My clients who are already vaccinated are ready to go. And the cruise industry is really offering an increased level of confidence by announcing that their crews will all be vaccinated as well. While the cruise industry suffered a black eye—rightly or wrongly—they are the ones who are really stepping it up to give travelers another layer of confidence whether it’s announcing daily testing of passengers or that the entire crew will be vaccinated.”
The fun stuff—favorite hotels and what you miss most about Europe?
- Harris said, “Fairmont Montreux in Lake Geneva. All my clients rave about it. Also, the InterContinental in Prague—it’s big, but they will be well staffed, have all the safety protocols in place. But the location is perfect as you can either go right into the city or into a park. I also think that for now, the larger hotels and chains will have a better safety net than the boutique hotels. For me, I can’t wait to have a REAL croissant.”
- Chima added, “Hotel Brunelleschi in Florence. All my clients love it. And through Ensemble’s relationship, they get all kinds of extra perks including a gelato tasting. For me, I miss the wine.”
- Hechler said, “Villa Sebregondi on Lake Como where you don’t even have to see another person and you get around completely by boat. Also, in Positano, the Sirenuse. Boat trips in Italy are a great way to get around, not come in contact with a lot of people and really enjoy a vacation in an environment where you feel secure and can be outdoors.”