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Looking Ahead: European Travel for Summer 2023

Toulouse, France
Toulouse, France Photo Credit: Air Canada

A healthy overseas travel sales outlook is expected for North American visitors.

Travel advisors and travel industry representatives are gearing up for a summer 2023 travel season that not only returns to pre-pandemic levels, but bests them. “Future sales of travel in 2023 are pacing 47 percent higher than 2019,” according to data and insights gathered from Virtuoso’s network of travel advisors, preferred partners and clients in August 2022. 

Europe and the United Kingdom are on the list of destinations to visit, says travel advisors.

“Summer 2023 is already showing signs of breaking all records,” says Kayla D. Zeigler, owner of Destination Europe LLC, a Virtuoso Agency in Columbus, Ohio. “The demand is tenfold from 2022. I think we are in for a very busy summer season in Europe and the U.K. I think 2023 could even be stronger than pre-pandemic.” 

Gavin Landry, executive vice president for the Americas and Australia for VisitBritain, says “we saw this year that North Americans are comfortable and eager to return to international travel, and our consumer sentiment research has shown that there is still a strong pent-up demand for travel across the U.S. and Canadian markets.” 

Cristina Buaas, owner and travel advisor for CSB Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in Houston, Texas, agrees that demand began this year and that Europe and the U.K. are very popular for summer 2023. “Based on what is on the books already, summer 2023 is on pace with 2022,” she says. “Sales for 2022 exceeded 2019 by 120 percent.”

Early Booking

Clients have already begun to think about their summer Europe trips, says Buaas. “Clients are starting the planning process much earlier than in the past,” she says. “They know firsthand or have heard from friends about the surging demand for Europe, and they don’t want to miss out on availability, especially given the strength of the U.S. dollar.”

Zeigler agrees. “The value for booking Europe right now and locking in a very low exchange rate for next year, when we don’t know what the exchange rate later in 2023 will be, is a huge selling factor right now,” she says. “I think early booking will be key to a successful booking for 2023. We are already seeing properties sold out, and our DMC partners are implementing thresholds regarding the requests they receive, which tells me they have even more requests than before and must be even more particular than in the past in terms of the requests they take on.” 

Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

Booking Flights 

François Choquette, Senior Director, Revenue Management, Transatlantic at Air Canada, says the trend of customers booking much closer to departure which began with the pandemic is expected to “shift further out as many travelers have realized that flights, hotels and car rentals are booking up early for the summer.” He continues: “Booking earlier gives customers an advantage as inventory is more open—as flights fill, the price points tend to climb.”

Landry says “air capacity is an important factor for driving the recovery of international tourism.” He adds: “Travelers across the U.S. and Canada will find it’s becoming easier to get to Britain as airlines continue to restore capacity on existing routes and introduce new transatlantic service. For example, Air Canada restored service to London, Manchester, and Edinburgh last spring, opening more options for both Canadians and Americans to make their way across the pond this year.”

In addition, Air Canada has added service for summer 2023 to Brussels and Toulouse, France, new routes which were originally planned for summer 2020 but were suspended due to the pandemic. It has also increased service to Copenhagen for the summer. (See sidebar for more details on Air Canada’s increased and existing service to the U.K. and Europe.) 

Summer Destinations

The United Kingdom “is seeing a ton of demand right now—Scotland especially and Edinburgh for sure,” says Zeigler. “London is making a comeback and with the new King’s coronation in May 2023, I would expect the London trend to be a hot destination for next summer.” 

Landry adds: “With His Majesty King Charles III’s coronation coming up in May, Britain’s royal heritage will be top of mind for many visitors,” says Landry. “We encourage people to look for new and exciting ways to enjoy a royal experience in Britain.”

Beyond the royal heritage, “visitors from the U.S. and Canada love to immerse themselves in British culture,” adds Landry. He notes that this includes Britain’s historical and heritage sites. “Over six in ten holidaymakers from the U.S. and Canada make a point to visit castles and historic homes, and more than half spend time exploring our world-class museums and art galleries,” Landry says based on VisitBritain market profiles. 

Air travel is also impacting travel to France for the summer, according to Mélanie Paul-Hus, director for Canada for Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency. 

“Longer stays from Canada and visits elsewhere than Paris are more and more frequent thanks to a wide array of direct flights to France’s regional capital cities such as Toulouse, Lyon and Nice,” she says. 

Canadian visitors are looking for “urban experiences and seaside, and if possible both at the same time,” she adds. “Culture, gastronomy and shopping are still the main themes attracting travelers.”

For U.S. visitors, France’s “cities and Paris, in particular, remain a big draw with cultural endeavor along with experiencing French Art de Vivre (the art of living) being the most sought-after experiences,” says Agnes Angrand, the USA Deputy Director for Atout France. 

Big news in France for 2023 includes the 385-mile Vallee de la Gastronomie, a new tourist destination for food and wine through multiple regions in the eastern half of France. Major anniversaries will be celebrated in 2023 including the 100th anniversary of the death of Gustave Eiffel who created and built Paris’ iconic tower. Normandy’s Mont-St-Michel will mark 1,000 years. It is the 350th anniversary of the death of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as the playwright, actor and poet Molière. On the 50th anniversary of the death of Pablo Picasso, France will join Spain in remembering the famed artist, who moved to the country in 1904. He spent the last 12 years of his life in Mougins on the Côte d’Azur, where he died in 1973. 

Other destinations that Zeigler is seeing a lot more requests for include the Scandinavian countries. According to a recent survey from Wonderful Copenhagen, U.S. and Canadian travelers’ motivations for visiting Copenhagen include “new experiences and inspiration; to relax; culture, art and historical experiences/attractions; friendly and accommodating locals; and to experience the Danish lifestyle.” The city has seen a 34 percent growth in hotel rooms since 2019, according to Tine Kastrup-Misir, director of communication for Wonderful Copenhagen. The city is going to be the UNESCO World Capital of Architecture 2023, when it will showcase not only its architecture, but also sustainable developments and city planning solutions. In addition, look for the 2023 BWF (Badminton World Federation) World Championship to be played in Copenhagen in August 2023.

Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

Who is Traveling? 

Summer 2023 has a family focus for travelers. Zeigler is booking “lots of families this year.” She adds: “Families and couples and small groups of families or couples make up our clientele. I think families are ready to travel to Europe in 2023—we are seeing so many requests for June and July when school is out for the summer. We are also planning for many honeymoons and anniversary trips.”

Buaas says her clients traveling to Europe and U.K. for summer 2023 are “a mix of couples and families, [and] not too many solo travelers.”

Choquette says Air Canada is “seeing a strong demand for VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) travel, as our customers [are] reunited with loved ones around the world. We want to enable our customers on both sides of the Atlantic to visit and explore each other’s countries conveniently and help them reconnect, visit and explore.” 

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