Slowing it Down: European Travelers Dive Deeper, Cover Less

As vaccinated Americans consider a European vacation in 2021 or 2022, one emerging touring trend is that many have the “desire to slow down,” according to Stefanie Schmudde, vice president, product development and operations, Abercrombie & Kent. She says many travelers are repeat European visitors and, so, they may wish to do things a bit differently. 

Some are seeking to “cover less turf,” others to explore more off-the-beaten path destinations. Some desire to travel in small groups—often with family and friends. Many are looking for escorted tours that include plenty of free time, so they can enjoy personal interests such as foodie experiences or hiking.

Choosing the Destination

So, what destinations are people booking? Tour operators cite Greece, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and beyond. From A&K’s perspective, “Poland is a destination in general [for which] we’ve seen an increase in interest,” says Schmudde.

Formerly, A&K combined touring in Poland with a visit to Prague in the Czech Republic, but “we’ve found that people have already been to Prague, so we’re slowing it down and spending more time in Warsaw and Krakow,” she emphasizes. New for 2021, A&K’s “Poland: Witness to History” is a nine-day “Connections Boutique Group Journey,” priced from $4,395 per person, double occupancy; it’s also offered in 2022. A maximum of 18 tour goers will immerse themselves in Warsaw’s history, descend into the Bochnia Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and reflect on Auschwitz‘s dark past. 

Tour guests will also join one of Europe’s last city lamplighters as he illuminates the authentic gas lanterns in Wroclaw‘s medieval center. In addition, during an exclusive A&K experience in Poland, tour goers will learn to cook pierogi, and then enjoy dinner with a show of folk music and dance.

Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, executive vice president of product management and tour management, Collette

Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, president and chief brand officer of Collette.

From another executive’s perspective, “we know that guests are looking for that experience where they’ll be an integral part of a cultural expedition in a small, tight-knit group of just 14-24 guests,” says Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, president and chief brand officer of Collette. She says that allows them to explore, have engaging, immersive experiences and absorb “a destination’s true culture with more built-in free time.”

As a good example, Leibl-Cote points to Collette’s new “Sicily and Its Isles” itinerary. On this 14-day tour, travelers have lots of time to dive deep. They’ll sample culinary specialties in Palermo’s colorful food market, meet a countess in her medieval palace, taste olive oil and learning about the Slow Food movement at a local farm, and tour Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with a guide at twilight.

Tour guests also will spend two nights on the less-visited isle of Salina and visit a traditional caper farm; spend three nights in Taormina, dramatically perched above the Ionian Sea; and see Mt. Etna from a different perspective during an off-road excursion. 

One optional excursion that should appeal to foodies is “Bitter Almonds: Erice Village & Sicilian Pastry Baking Lesson and Tasting” at $70 per person. The “Sicily and Its Isles” tour is priced from $3,549 per person, double occupancy,

In addition, Globus’ and Cosmos’ “Undiscovered” tour series gives European travelers the opportunity to get off the beaten path and into small towns, villages and wide open spaces outside typical tourist spots. For example, “The Croatian” by Globus is an 11-day “Undiscovered” Small Group Discovery Tour from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, starting at $2,659 per person double. 

“These tours have been tremendously popular and deliver on the growing trend of looking at a tour to experience new, untouched and wide open spaces,” says Steve Born, chief marketing officer, the Globus family of brands. 

Some travelers desire to slow things down even further by booking a  vacation stay in one European spot only. Classic Vacations offers options at many luxurious resorts and hotels, including Caruso, a Belmond Hotel along Italy‘s Amalfi Coast; the Domes of Elounda, an Autograph Collection property in Crete; the Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam and others.

At the Hotel Pulitzer, one perk is that the property has its own motor launch moored in front of the hotel. Built in 1909, the boat’s polished brass trimmings and glassed indoor cabin allows guests to explore the Amsterdam canals in style. There are pre-arranged trips by the hotel daily. The evening trip is particularly enticing as the city’s lights reflect on the water. The launch can also be booked for private outings and catering is available.

Stay tuned to this Europe page for more about tours, trends and new options for those booking a European vacation. 

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