Where are people traveling for the holidays? Warm weather, Europe beckon

Interest in warm destinations are through the roof, cruise bookings are coming to life again, and Europe is on the minds of last-minute holiday season travelers.

For travel advisors, November has also ushered in long days and bedeviling details.

“We are buried, buried, buried in holiday requests,” said Corina Johnson, owner of All Points Travel in Utah. “And it’s so frustrating because availability is so slim.”

Johnson’s December travelers are headed to the typical warm vacation destinations this year: Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii are her top three. And while she has very few Europe requests, “cruising requests are on the rise,” she said.

The good news is her FIT bookings are above 2019 levels. On the other hand, she said, “we still have a fair amount of cancel/rebook driven by fear of getting sick while gone or not wanting to be vaccinated.”

To top it off, clients are waiting for the very last word on Covid spikes and vaccine requirements — and so their booking windows are often just one to six weeks in advance. “That just compounds the ongoing headaches and makes many trips next to impossible,” Johnson said.

At Boutique Travel Advisors in Phoenix, co-founder Angie Rice said her clients’ definition of a great holiday destination is one that can be reached without changing planes.

A Europe specialist, she is seeing increasing interest in the Continent for the holidays — but more important than price, she said, is the goal of avoiding connecting flights.

“They don’t know if three or four hours is enough time to make a connection, but they don’t want to sit in an airport for five or six hours. So people are making decisions based on where they can fly direct,” she said. “My clients in Phoenix are going to Mexico and Costa Rica, while the East Coast is looking more at Mexico and Europe.”

At Travelsavers in Oyster Bay, N.Y., chief marketing officer Nicole Mazza said Mexico and the Caribbean are always the two top sellers, and member agencies this year are seeing “numbers reaching back to 2019” as well as lots of interest in Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. “We’re seeing Europe come on strong from Q2, with high double-digits moving forward from spring, especially in the traditional three I’s: Italy, Iceland and Ireland. But for the holidays, the Caribbean, Mexico and domestic are our top markets.”

In Thousand Oaks, Calif., Town & Country Travel also has been booking mostly “family villa-type stays in the Caribbean,” which vice president of marketing and client experience Heidi Creed attributed to concerns about flying.

“We want to set our clients up for success, so we’re not recommending Europe for this year,” she said. “Air travel is such a mess, and the news is so doom-and-gloom that it doesn’t encourage people to go for it.

“We have some ski trips in Colorado and Utah, a river cruise and some Regent cruises, New York for New Year’s. But I’d say were not seeing an influx of people booking right now.”

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