Independent travelers are forging ahead with plans to visit Europe, despite the uncertainty posed by Omicron, according to a new survey by Eurobound, which offers packages and programs to independent travelers. Pent-up demand, a growth in disposable income, and the widespread availability of vaccines are fueling a demand for upscale, independent travel to Europe in 2022, Eurobound says.
The company, which specializes in custom travel to Europe sold exclusively through travel advisors, is seeing most clients moving ahead with travel plans. “A few travelers are taking a wait-and-see approach, but most are going ahead with plans,” says Brigitte Armand, Eurobound’s president.. “We have a lot of France bookings and I think people may feel a little more comfortable knowing that a Vaccination Pass is required to enter restaurants, museums, trains, and other venues,:
Booking lead times in general have increased compared to pre-pandemic levels. “Bookings have been coming in all the way to next winter,” says Jeff Roy, Eurobound’s vice president of marketing and sales, who adds that the company has also received a number of last-minute bookings.
Eurobound reports that there has been a growth in deposits, and an increase in average itinerary prices driven largely by traveler demand for more exclusive accommodations and arrangements.
“Our travelers are spending roughly 20 percent more on land packages compared to pre-pandemic levels,” says Armand. “When we plan an itinerary we always ask what the client’s travel budget is, where they want to go and what they want to do. This year, if an itinerary prices out 15-20 percent above budget, rather than trimming something from the itinerary, our travel advisors tell us that clients are opting to spend the additional amount. Clients may have waited over a year to travel, they have saved money, and now they want to indulge themselves.”
“For example, clients who rolled over their trip to the Oberammergau Passion Play have upgraded their pre- and post-stays in Munich from a triple room in a four-star hotel to a junior suite at the five-star Kempinski,” says Roy “In London and Paris, clients are upgrading queen bed accommodations for more deluxe king beds, while in Italy, at destinations like Lake Como, travelers are trading in deluxe rooms to lake view rooms for junior suites at the exclusive five-star Tremezzo in Lake Como.”
“Finding upgraded hotels and accommodations poses a challenge, because many top-tier hotels and rooms are sold out way in advance,” says Armand. “That’s where our Europe-based staff comes in, saving travel counselors the work of finding the best available choice.”
Armaud says Europe’s COVID regulations keep changing and each country has its own requirements. “We’re accommodating clients accordingly, whether it means helping them obtain health passes where needed, or tests prior to their return to the U.S.,“ she says. Her advice is to limit travel to one or two countries.