By Gregg Rockett
A recent CNN story predicted that the number of Americans traveling to Europe this year will be 55% greater than in 2022. Allianz Partners identified this year’s most popular destinations (i.e., impacted) to be London, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam and Lisbon – all destinations with infrastructure already creaking under relentless year-round tourism. This massive migration occurs despite the highest airfares in six years and hotel prices that are nearly 40% higher versus 2022, according to Hopper’s report on Summer Travel to Europe. Add to that, the Euro is approximately 10% more expensive than it was at this time in 2022.
So, expect to be surrounded by throngs of tourists, and not just in the classic destinations mentioned in the Allianz Partners report. Croatia has become a top six destination in terms of international arrivals within Europe and tourism officials there are projecting a record year in 2023. I scratched my head over a CNN columnist’s description of the northern coastal region of Croatia as “less traveled”. In September of 2022, I followed the route chronicled by this CNN article, encompassing Trogir to Zadar. Given the proximity to and cultural influences from Italy, my hope was it would be Italy-light without the crowds. That turned out to be wishful thinking as it was teeming with visitors at a level consistent with the over-touristed city of Split. And this wasn’t even during the prime summer travel season.
In an article I authored for this media site in late 2021, I highlighted the impending prospect for overtourism to creep again into the travel lexicon after a pause created by the pandemic. It has not taken long for the “travel buzzword” of 2019 (according to CNN) to ricochet back into the headlines. And this despite 2022 global passenger levels not quite at 65% of 2019 figures according to IATA. So, global travel has not yet reached anything close to pre-pandemic levels!
A different pandemic is sweeping across America now – described by the travel buzzword of 2022 – ‘Revenge Travel’. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian used the term in a recent interview with Fortune magazine in characterizing the rebound as “beyond anything that people can classify as truly pent-up (demand)”. His team assessed the impact (or in this case gap) of what I prefer to call ‘boomerang travel’ at $300 Billion. In fact, Delta’s 20 largest revenue days in its history have been experienced in 2023 (according to the Fortune interview with Bastian). This statistic is probably the more emphatic as it relates to the scale of the rebound in American travel.
How should you approach your summer vacation to Europe? Expect that the classic destinations will be overrun. Along with those previously mentioned in the Allianz Partners report, add Barcelona, Rome, Athens, Reykjavik and Madrid. If your desired vacation destination was featured in a popular television series, that might also be worth reconsidering. A New York times article highlights the impact that the second season of The White Lotus had on a surge in visitation to Sicily as well as the impact of Game of Thrones on visitation to Croatia. If you thought the destination looked good on camera, you are unlikely to be the only one.
In April of this year, Fodors released an article that recommended alternatives to overcrowded destinations for this summer. The list includes swapping Paris for Riga (in Latvia), Rome for Pula (in Croatia), Lisbon for Coimbra (also in Portugal) and Barcelona for Valencia. (also in Spain). All are charming in their own right; however, they are not on the same scale as the cities which they are substituting and could quickly become overwhelmed. If these destinations wind up on the 2023 or 2024 bucket list for the American summer exodus, they will just be added to the growing list of European cities bursting at the seams.