Destination Europe

Europe

With its phenomenal assortment of culture, sights and flavours, there really is something for everyone in Europe. Tatiana Tsierkezou uncovers the trends that are currently shaping the continent’s burgeoning travel industry.

Whether you’re taking in Rome’s inspiring cultural sites, dancing the night away in buzzing Berlin or sharing an intimate moment with your significant other in Paris, each European destination, big or small, is home to something extraordinary that will charm even the most discerning traveller.

The really magical thing about Europe is that there are hundreds upon hundreds of unique adventures just waiting to be uncovered. This continent is so rich in diversity, that it is a popular option not only among international travellers hailing from other continents, but among Europeans themselves.

Holiday Inn 2018

So what is shaping this multifaceted continent’s tourism industry in 2018? TTG spoke with industry insiders to uncover some of the latest tourism trends that are influencing the sector.

EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCES

A sense of adventure is rife among today’s travellers. Over the last few years, experiential travel has been somewhat of an industry buzzword, not only for Europe, but for the rest of the world also.

Today’s adventurers yearn for emotional connections when travelling and are now opting for more authentic, well-rounded experiences in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations, rather than relaxed, undemanding resort holidays.

Commenting on this was sales and marketing manager, Hotel Belvedere (Locarno, Switzerland), Gloria Spagnoli: “Travellers are looking to experience new destinations that have not been discovered yet by mass tourism. Our region is ideal for those looking for a holiday off the beaten path, combining breath-taking natural landscapes with a lifestyle vacation, unforgettable food experiences and great shopping opportunities.”

Eager to cater to the demands of its visitors, the newly renovated property – a certified bike hotel – now offers its guests brand new electric bikes and mountain bikes that can be rented by those wishing to experience beautiful Locarno – an Italian-speaking resort city in southern Switzerland. But guests not only have the opportunity to explore this stunning destination on e-bikes when visiting Hotel Belvedere; Spagnoli explained that the ‘Ticino Ticket’ is one of the most significant tourism developments that has been implemented in the region.

“With the Ticino Ticket, all hotel guests have free transportation throughout the entire region by bus and by train. They also get discounts on several mountain railways, attractions and boat trips. This is a big added value that has been welcomed by our guests and commercial partners with great enthusiasm.”

And while Switzerland is capitalising on the experience-led trend that has been sweeping Europe, Mallorca in Spain is also jumping on the bandwagon.

Speaking to TTG exclusively about this was Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa’s general manager, Jordi Tarrida: “Savvier luxury travellers demand and expect more out of their travel experience. They want to feel part of their travel experience and contribute and engage with the local community. Experiential travel is at the core of most luxury holidays; it is all about inspiring emotions and infusing the journey with local sounds, flavours, sights and smells that are native to the area. The traveller wants to feel the neighbourhood and take part in authentic events that truly bring to life special moments of enjoyment and emotional connection.”

And with this in mind, Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa responds to this travel trend in various ways, including spa treatments inspired by locally sourced ingredients such as oranges from Sóller, almonds and olive oil, to guided tours around Sóller Valley or stargazing experiences with the UNESCO Tramuntana mountain range as a backdrop.

“Our guests can enjoy a selection of experiences that let them immerse into the local area,” Tarrida added.

Travelling from Mallorca to the island of love, Cyprus’ Columbia Beach Resort in Pissouri, which recently concluded a game-changing renovation that transformed it into a suite-only resort, has also been learning from the experiential travel trend.

Marketing manager, Columbia Beach Resort, Anthea Vikis elucidated: “Experiential travel is still on trend and we have made many additions to our product with the aim of allowing guests to get out, explore and soak up as much of the heritage and culture of the region as possible. “Everything, from the BikeCyprus and watersports centres to our spa and the excursions we arrange via guest services, has been added to allow guests to try out something new – and we have something for every taste and level,” she added.

With gastronomy representing a fundamental component of a guest’s stay, Columbia Beach Resort’s Michelin-trained executive chef, Ioannis Giakoumidis, is on hand to tantalise the taste buds of diners, ensuring that every culinary creation is fresh, fun and innovative.

“Our goal is always to ensure that guests’ appetites are satisfied and that they leave our resort and head home with a new-found love for food. Gastronomy for us isn’t just a passing trend, it is our way of life,” she said.

But moving away from the experiential and sensory travel trend, what are European hotels doing in-house to ensure that every beck and call is catered for?

General manager, Sofitel Munich Bayerpost (Germany), Gerhard Struger told TTG exclusively that the hotel has made it its mission to upgrade guest services to a new level.

“We provide ‘Cousu Main’ service as we call it – a tailor made service from the heart, to make every stay for our guests a special, personalised and memorable experience,” he said.

Not only this, Sofitel Munich Bayerpost is also extremely focused on digital development, as Struger explained: “Most of our guests are always online, either for business, staying in touch with their families or just for fun. Therefore, we have adapted to our customers’ requirements with easy online booking and check in, a free and stable WiFi connection, as well as real time social media engagement.

“Actually, we have many fans on social media from the MENA region, who are always very active in posting great pictures of our hotel,” he enthused.

ENTICING MENA

It comes as no surprise that the MENA region is captivated by Europe and its kaleidoscope of fulfilling experiences. Whether they’re travelling for business, leisure, retail, family or experiential purposes, this all-encompassing continent has it all. But how are hospitality entities working to further capture this market’s attention?

Eager to boost its share of Middle Eastern travellers, Switzerland’s Hotel Belvedere has been working hand-in-hand with Ticino and Switzerland Tourism to raise awareness and boost numbers.

“We aim to increase bookings from this market and are therefore working on being bookable through the wholesalers that have a big share in the MENA markets,” Spagnoli shared.

Switzerland’s Crans-Montana Tourism & Congress is also working hard to entice travellers from the region, specifically family travellers, according to CEO, Bruno Huggler.

“We focus especially on families who want to discover the hidden treasures of Switzerland. Crans-Montana is labelled as a family destination and offers everything for this clientele.”

Tying in with the aforementioned experiential travel buzzword, Huggler explained that Cran- Montana offers MENA visitors very cultural and authentic experiences, such as spending the night in a mountain hut on a pasture, meeting authentic cheese makers, hiking or e-biking with a guide, plus more.

“We consider that individual travellers from the Middle East are up for more in-depth cultural discovery and authenticity,” he added.

Columbia Beach Resort (Cyprus) has also pin-pointed the MENA market as key and, according to Vikis, offers the perfect product for this audience.

She told TTG: “[We have] a luxury product with a high-end finish that offers total stay flexibility, with options to suit all needs. Our suites have been designed to the highest spec and offer complete comfort. Our culinary experience is innovative and showcases the very best of Cypriot cuisine with a twist, plus we have an award-winning spa, a stunning infinity pool, a watersports and cycling centre, as well as direct access to the Blue Flag beach on Pissouri Bay.”

Vikis explained that Columbia Beach Resort has been attending wedding exhibitions in Lebanon to promote its magical wedding packages, which have also been presented to key trade partners across the Middle East.

“We have conducted targeted sales calls across Beirut to update and educate key travel agencies and corporate accounts, and we’ve launched a targeted Middle East digital campaign in conjunction with Google. We also regularly utilise local partners in the area to draw a positive association that helps to drive bookings forward,” she noted.

Finally, director of sales and marketing, Hotel National (Moscow, Russia), Elena Borodulina shared with TTG that an impressive 10 per cent of the property’s guests hail from Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to an increase in the flow of tourists to Russia from the Middle East,” she said. “Among them are modern hotel infrastructure, historical attractions, gastronomic diversity, affordable prices, as well as developed transport links. Middle Eastern tourists appreciate the budgetary price category of travel to Russia, but it is worth noting that it’s not only the price that is of interest to tourists, but also the quality of the services offered.”

Borodulina shared that Hotel National adapts its services for Muslim visitors: “We want everyone who comes here to feel at home. During the last visit of a group of travellers from Saudi Arabia, we invited a chef to the hotel who prepared special halal food during their stay.”

Fascinating Europe is an all-encompassing, all-welcoming region, with an extraordinary tourism portfolio run by experts who understand the needs of global travellers. Armed with all of these attributes, the only way is up for this eclectic continent.