Depending on how you look at it, this could be the best or the worst summer ever for Americans traveling to Europe.
Why the best? Because as it looks right now, it’s going to be a lot less crowded. And it’s likely going to be the least expensive summer in recent memory.
Terrorism in Brussels, Paris and Istanbul is taking a toll on advance bookings. In the wake of the recent attacks, hotel occupancy in Brussels and other European capitals declined 15-25 percent according to the Wall Street Journal. It also reports that the World Travel Organization and Thomas Cook expect fewer European bookings. Big travel search engines and airlines report a big drop in searches for trips to Europe. And just as the industry was recovering from the Paris attacks, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans traveling to Europe from now through mid-June. While Americans will likely take trips that are already booked, it’s less likely that they’ll book new trips to Europe until time heals those wounds and we see the return of some sense of security. It’s not just Americans who are skittish about European trips– the big Asian market, especially first-time Chinese travelers, are holding off, too. And the problem is that right now, we are in the key planning months for summer trips. For many, Europe will be off the table.
Another reason it could be the best summer in Europe? It’s likely going to be very inexpensive– even during the peak July-August period. Prices for everything from transatlantic airline tickets and hotel rooms to t-shirts and cappuccinos will decline significantly for two reasons: weak demand and the strength of the U.S. dollar. Currently the exchange rate is hovering at around $1.10 per euro, down from around $1.40 two years ago. A weak European economy means weak demand for transatlantic airline tickets from the other side of the pond– and that could translate into bigger airfare discounts for Americans. Plus there is new low-fare competition from the likes of Norwegian Air and WOW Air. Keep an eye on summer fare sales on transatlantic flights, which usually start this month- I predict we’ll see some very steep discounts. It could get easier to redeem frequent flyer miles on European itineraries, too. (Stay tuned to TravelSkills as we’ll monitor this closely.)
Why could this summer be the worst? Well, if you are in the business of sending or hosting Americans in Europe, it’s going to be a tough summer. I’m sure that most TravelSkills readers won’t let recent events sway their decisions about travel to Europe much- we are a resilient bunch. But… what would you do if you were responsible for chaperoning a group of high school kids to Europe? Would you feel good about sending your senior parents on a trip Paris or Rome? My father has a business trip planned for Istanbul in May, and I’m concerned. If he did not already have the trip booked, I’d probably advise him to stay home. If you are a meeting planner, would you risk booking a big convention in Europe in this environment? I didn’t think so.
Now let’s look at the flipside of all this. In the US, the economy is moving along well, consumer confidence is up, and we are all working hard. That means that there’s a healthy appetite for summer vacations this year. So I’m expecting we’ll see a LOT more demand for popular domestic, Canadian or Mexican options. Hawaii will likely have a huge summer. Cuba will likely be off the charts. San Francisco just reported that 2015 was its busiest tourist year…ever. So if you have any trips planned closer to home during the peak months of July and August, now’s the time to make those reservations.… I don’t think you are going to save much by booking early, but at least you’ll get the most convenient flights, choicest hotel rooms and right-sized rental cars. Remember, convenience is worth paying for!
What about you? Are you planning on going to Europe this year? Would you send your kids over there this summer? Are the deals too good to pass up? Please leave your comments below.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Should I tip my Uber driver? + Boeing 747 nearing its end? + Bargain hunters travel guide for 2016 + World’s best airline lounge? + Fares to Europe tumble