Political unrest, terrorist attacks, mass protests — unfortunately, these have become the new norm in the world.
And that’s why people aren’t letting it sway them from traveling. Where people choose to go is, of course, tied to where people aren’t going. Travelers still want to see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, even though England and France have seen a surge in attacks. Others may opt to explore Scotland, Ireland or Portugal, countries that haven’t been making headlines.
Travelers aren’t letting anything stop them from exploring the world. We talked to five tour operators to find out where people are going abroad in 2017 and 2018 and what is motivating their choices.
Bruce Poon Tip founded G Adventures in 1990 and started out offering trips in Ecuador. He soon expanded to Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and, eventually, all over the world — even Antarctica.
Because the company goes to so many destinations, geopolitics sometimes affects its itineraries. But, in general, when a destination hits the news, adventure travelers “don’t stay home; they just go somewhere else,” said Kim McCabe, who handles public relations for G Adventures.
After recent attacks in France, G Adventures did see some people redirect to Portugal, Spain and Norway. “But now we’re seeing people coming back to France,” she said. “We offer a river cruise in Burgundy that’s selling out.”
There has also been a dip in Americans booking Turkey, Egypt and South Korea. G Adventures had predicted that South Korea would be a hot destination in 2017, and it is with travelers from other countries. But because of tensions between North Korea and Washington, “it’s taking a dip” with Americans.
Peru is consistently the company’s strongest performer in Central and South America, and there’s no sign of its slowing, McCabe said. “I think it’s a real rite of passage for Americans who have done the Caribbean and Europe and are looking for that first real big adventure,” she said.
The Galapagos Islands are booming, and G Adventures offers a variety of trips there, from its budget-conscious camping line to its upgraded National Geographic Journeys product. National Geographic Journeys is performing so strongly that the company is adding four new tours — Tanzania, Botswana, Mongolia and Borneo — bringing the number of 2018 itineraries to 83.
Colombia has been on the rise for the past couple years and will be a “priority for us in 2018,” McCabe said. People are beginning to recognize Colombia as a beautiful tropical destination with wildlife galore just as its security is being perceived as improving, especially after the president received the Nobel Peace Prize in December.
All 12 of Images Tours’ itineraries are based in Europe, where the company has been leading groups since 1989. The Heart of Europe Circle Tour includes Paris, and the Heart of the British Isles itinerary includes London, cities that have seen a rise in terrorist attacks in the past couple of years. Both of those destinations are “taking a small hit, but it’s not dramatic,” said sales manager Justin Osbon.
“It’s not so much of a dip as it is a pause.”
Most amazing, he said, is that travelers who were booked on 2016 and 2017 itineraries did not cancel when an attack happened in or near their destinations. Five to 10 years ago, if any of those incidents had happened, “then it would probably be a big, mass cancellation issue,” he said.
Instead, people who were thinking about booking paused and booked later, and “the people who were booked said, ‘We’re doing it. We’re not getting younger, prices aren’t getting cheaper. Let’s go.”
Although clients are still booking the big European cities, many are also gravitating to Spain and Portugal this year and in 2018, which “may have something to do with clients looking at different destinations,” Osbon said.
The company doesn’t typically make sweeping changes to its lineup, but it recently unveiled its new Scandinavia and Baltic Highlights itinerary, and is adding a France and Holland Favorites itinerary.
The new Scandinavia and Baltic Highlights tour includes visits to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, with the choice of a 12-day tour ending in Helsinki or a 16-day tour ending in Vilnius. Image has already sold out one itinerary for 2018, and another is “booking solidly.”
“Clients have been asking for that, and it is phenomenal,” Osbon said.
Image Tours is going to beat its 2016 bookings this year and is already surpassing 2017 bookings for 2018, Osbon said, so “I believe ’18 is going to be even better.”