TOUR OPERATORS TAKE AN OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK
AUSTRALIANS are approaching European travel this year with “a renewed sense of optimism”, according to Scenic’s acting general manager of sales and marketing Liz Glover. “We all got 2016 fatigue; it was a challenging year for everyone in so many ways and I think people have started 2017 afresh,” Glover said. The same sentiment has been echoed across several of the major tour operators, each of whom has spoken of a stronger consumer confidence around European destinations after a difficult time last year. Trafalgar Tours, Scenic and Globus have each recorded a rise in sales in the first month of 2017 when compared to January 2016, with Britain and Ireland departures being in particularly hot demand. “Britain and Ireland always go extremely well for us and Eastern European land tours go really well as well,” Glover said. Globus family of brands national marketing manager Chris Fundell concurred, while also highlighting the success of a Scottish Highlands tour this year. “It’s January and we have already beaten last year’s sales on this one,” he said. Tour operators are reporting that Scandinavia and Switzerland are standing out as trending destinations, with a strong increase in bookings for 2017. “Scandinavia is definitely somewhere that is on everybody’s map,” Glover said. Fundell reported the same, saying Scandinavia was selling “exceptionally well”, along with a selection of Switzerland rail offerings. “People are looking for new experiences,” he said. While the shadow of terrorism saw France take a hit last year, operators remain confident the destination won’t lose its appeal in the longer term. Trafalgar managing director Matt CameronSmith highlighted a resilience in France. “People are still going to France without question – there’s a lot on offer,” CameronSmith said. “Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world and I think it will hold that place”. He said while there was no question sales were down for the city of light last year, Trafalgar was seeing traction again on the destination. At Scenic, Glover suggested customers were being a little more cautious and said France was not expected to regain “healthy bookings” until 2018. “While we’re not seeing a downturn this year we expect to see growth happen in 2018,” she said. “Our clients don’t say ‘I’m never going there’. They just say I’ll just wait a year and go somewhere else in the meantime. “They just show a slight caution which I guess comes with age,” Glover admitted. Fundell, on the other hand, thinks France is already well on its way to recovery. “I think there has been a short term hit but we haven’t seen a great impact on overall sales”. Overall, the major European tour providers travelbulletin spoke to are all expecting to see notable year-on-year growth in their European sales across 2017.