From the mountains to the Mediterranean, international travel returns.
There was big news from across The Pond when Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and a physician to boot, told The New York Times that Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to travel to the European Union this summer as all 27 member states accept “unconditionally” those treated with one of the three vaccines currently available in the U.S.
Reacting on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert enthused for all of us: “Hot damn! I can’t wait to travel to fabulous destinations, like anywhere but my grocery store.”
As with so much about the pandemic, there will surely be a lot for travelers and travel industry operators to navigate en route back to Europe. After all, the State Department recently updated its list of Travel Advisories – billed as “a first step in planning any trip abroad” – with every member of the EU designated “Level 4: Do Not Travel.” The CDC followed by cautioning that “international travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants.”
Despite these warnings, the travel itch is real especially amongst fully vaccinated Americans and destinations that rely on tourism dollars.
Anyone hoping to head to Europe will want to use their head about it, as policies will likely vary widely. “Every country is doing its own things,” Tea Ros, managing director of Strategic Hotel Consulting in Switzerland, told us. “This seems to be the first EU-wide policy, but I have a feeling you will still have countries that will overrule it.”
As for hotels catering to Americans, Ros, who has clients across Europe, expects different approaches in different locations. “Keep in mind that some hotels and destinations have been doing relatively well through the pandemic,” she says, noting, for instance, properties in smaller, out-of-the-way places in Switzerland. “They were lagging before, but they saw an uptick when people wanted to travel to remote areas for distancing reasons.”
Might the reverse come true as vaccinated Americans venture back to Europe? “Well, no one is brave enough yet to talk about travelers over the long haul. But hoteliers in remote settings within a few hours driving distance from cities are not too worried because they have enough domestic and regional guests from drive-through markets.” More urgent, she says, is the situation for city hotels that rely on business and conference clientele, as well as larger resort locations in Southern Europe.
Indeed, a mid-March report from Fitch Ratings foresaw leisure travel in Europe rebounding faster than urban destinations and upscale accommodation, noting “the success of vaccination programmes and the resulting removal of border restrictions and resumption of air traffic will be critical for the sector recovery.”
Meanwhile, ToursByLocals, a client of our spin-off sister agency Maverick Creative offering private tours and personalized experiences led by local guides around the world, reports that while numbers for European destinations are still “pretty low” compared with the U.S. and Mexico, Reykjavik cracked the company’s top 10 and international bookings made up about 46% of total bookings over the past month. The top European destinations booked by Americans also include Athens, Croatia (Dubrovnik/Split), Paris, London, Lisbon, Malta, and Rome.
What experiences can vaccinated Americans anticipate from Hawkins International and Maverick Creative clients across and around Europe? Take a look:
- In Paris, Dorchester Collection has debuted completely redesigned guest suites that celebrate storied histories. Hôtel Plaza Athénée now offers 25 renovated Art-Deco suites on the 7th floor designed by dynamic duo Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille of Agence Moinard Bétaille. Le Meurice is also ready to welcome, with 20 guest suites reimagined by designers Lally & Berger with touches such as stained-glass windows from Ateliers Duchemin and whimsical flora-patterned wallpapers by Gournay. In London, The Dorchester celebrated its 90th anniversary in mid-April with the opening of Dorchester Rooftop, the hotel’s first-ever rooftop restaurant and bar concept, with plans to showcase a series of culinary pop-ups overseen by Executive Chef Mario Perera through spring and summer. Less than an hour away in Ascot, Coworth Park has debuted North Lodge, a completely restored stand-alone guest cottage offering exclusive use, access to the country house hotel’s 240-acre grounds, a private garden accessible through French doors from the kitchen, and a signature Coworth Park copper bathtub in the master bathroom.
- In the Swiss Alps, historic Gstaad Palace, one of the last family-owned palaces, has a summer full of fun planned for guests, with outdoor programming for families and kids including amazing cycling, and the return of the Gstaad Palace Challenge, Switzerland’s most exclusive classic car rally, on August 27. Pop by the new Pool Bar at the hotel’s outdoor piscine for Aperol Spritzes and charcuterie to be savored in a Slim Aarons-esque setting overlooking the shimmering peaks of the Bernese Oberland.
- onefinestay, the leader in unmatched personal service in the private home and villa rental industry, has launched an incredible new curated collection of 30-plus contemporary villas in Greece, marking the first phase of the company’s expansion into 14 new destinations globally, including ski regions in Europe and the U.S. With the borders of Greece recently reopened to American travelers, onefinestay’s new villa selection provides the perfect refuge for a summer getaway, offering ultimate seclusion and privacy on idyllic islands that have been off-limits to U.S. travelers for more than a year. Among new addresses: Villa Tan, a traditional Cycladic cave house perched high on the edge of steep cliffs in Imerovigli on Santorini, with gorgeous views over the Aegean and a nearby volcano. The three-bedroom villa has a large terrace with a plunge pool and pergola-shaded and sun-drenched balconies, and it sleeps six through upper and lower cave houses, each with its own well-equipped kitchen and terrace. (From $808/night) There’s also Villa Nicholson, ideally located on the pristine sands of Mersini Beach on Mykonos, with incredible sea views, eight spacious bedrooms to accommodate up to 20 guests, and three individual units including the main house to ensure family-friendly privacy for all. (From $2,853.night)
- Seabourn, the ultra-luxury resort at sea, has developed plans with the Government of Greece to restart operations in the Mediterranean with a series of sailings round-trip out of Athens beginning July 3. To embark on a cruise guests will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, answer health screening questionnaires, wear a face mask in required areas and practice social distancing, as well as regularly check health protocols for inbound travel and return home. Leading up to departure, Seabourn will continue to follow stringent health and safety protocols and work in tandem with media experts and government bodies to ensure the health and safety of guests, team members, and people in the communities Seabourn visits. Ports of call on the inaugural 7-Day Heart Of The Aegean cruise on Seabourn Ovation include the charming village of Agios Nikolaos on the Gulf of Mirabello on Crete; Limassol, the largest seaside resort on Cyprus with accessible attractions including medieval castles, remote mountain villages and archaeological sites dating back to 7,000 B.C.; as well as Rhodes, Mykonos and Nafplion, the last one of the loveliest small towns in the islands, with a sheltered location below a rocky headland crowned by a Venetian fortress that is perhaps unrivaled in Greece. (Veranda Suites from $5,399)
- Back here in the U.S., Sentient Jet, a Directional Aviation company, is launching fixed one-way rates with guaranteed availability to London for the summer. Fly in large-cabin jets certified to participate in the SJ25+ Sentient Jet Large Cabin Card Program, model years 2000 or later, and include guaranteed WiFi. Base charter price: $79,750 between New York and London through August 31, with EU extension cities available for a supplemental fee. Flights need to be booked 14 days in advance, and cancellation is on 14-days’ notice. (For more details, please visit www.sentient.com.)