Travels with Bob

Despite Overtourism

Global Tourism Enjoying Banner Year

It’s not even June yet and already 2024 has become another crazy-busy year for tourism, especially with more travelers seeking custom itineraries created exclusively for them. In fact, by yearend, I anticipate having sent clients seeking adventure, sightseeing, cultural enrichment or something else to all seven continents. And most will have experienced travel itineraries created exclusively for them.

I am also calling 2024 the year of family travel with extended family sizes ranging from three or four people to more than a dozen. Such travel appears driven by special occasions: a milestone birthday or anniversary, a high school or college graduation and, in few instances, family reunions. I particularly recommend contemporary cruise ships for reunions, because they provide something for everyone during the day with the family meeting up for dinner to share their experiences of the day.


Coming out of the pandemic, it was easy to plan a last-minute international trip close to departure but not anymore. The time to start planning a complex trip or to find the right accommodation on a small ship cruise, for example, has lengthened to 15 months or more. For another example, the best time to plan a two-week rail journey around Alaska or an Alaska CruiseTour for 2025 is to start now. In most cases, planning early can save on the cost of air, accommodation and activities – depending on the time of year you want to travel. Increasingly, people are looking to the “shoulder season” and even the “off season” to find exceptional travel options, especially when compared with the “high season” crowds, hot weather and higher prices. For example, you will find the great museums of Paris almost empty in February compared with some 30,000 people a day in July – just pack your winter coat.

At the same time, more people are combining land travel with sea travel, primary adding pre-cruise activities in the embarkation city and post-cruise activities in the debarkation city. For example, a client recently spent six days exploring Japan before embarking of a 15-cruise of Asia-Pacific and added a few nights in Singapore post-cruise.

Travel TIP: On such extended itineraries, it may save money to avoid “multi-city” air tickets that combine all flights on one ticket, especially when flying Premium Economy or Business Class. Make your outbound and homebound (over-the-ocean) flights premium class and purchase one-way economy tickets between other cities on your itinerary.


Global Tourism Enjoying Banner Year in Lisbon

Once off the beaten path, tourists from around the world have discovered Lisbon (or Lisboa according to the locals) and what makes the city and Portugal extra special. It also has become one of my favorite European cities for its culture, cuisine and history. Rossio Square in the heart of the city is only a short distance from where Columbus launched his three famous exploration cruises.

Since coming out of the pandemic, citizens in cities and towns across Europe, as well other cities around the world, have become quite vocal about overtourism that disrupts their way of life and simply leaves the streets paved with trash at days end. Cities are now taking action to address this issue. Earlier this month, Venice enacted a “day-tripper” tax of about five euro to cover the cost of cleaning up the mess tourists leave behind. This action follows Venice restricting the size of ships that can enter the Venice lagoon two years ago, forcing major cruise lines to find places to dock some two hours away. Hotel guests spending time in Venice are not subject to the new tax since they already pay a “tourist” tax collected by the hotels.

Venice is not alone in that other cities now charge such hotel “tourist” taxes, and several are limiting the number of cruise ships that can dock within the city per day. Several years ago, I was in Key West for the day when there were five ships visiting. An estimated ten to 15 thousand visitors, in addition to hotel guests visiting the city, filled the streets making it impossible to get around the historic area. More recently, some 10,000 visitors descended upon on the Greek island of Santorini, ruining the day for tourists and locals alike.

Unrelated, Europe plans to launch its ETIAS travel authorization system sometime in the first half of next year. Details remain limited and no applications are currently being accepted. Yet,  future travelers to Europe should watch for this program’s implementation next year. In short, ETIAS program is akin to the travel requirements our government has imposed on European travelers.


Global Tourism Enjoying Banner Year in Florida

Founded in 1565 by the Spanish, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the United States. It’s also a great getaway destination for everyone living in the southeast. Featuring a historic Spanish fort, a Pirate Museum, a Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park and miles of sandy beaches along Florida’s northeast Atlantic Coast, St. Augustine also enjoys a good music and arts scene.

There’s still plenty of time to squeeze in a summer vacation closer to home. For example, Mary and I plan to a spend Memorial Day weekend in St. Augustine, Fla., with our four children and their families. Getting everyone together in our country’s oldest city should be a lot of fun. I also look forward to enjoying the summer Olympics from my den rather than among the crowds preparing to descend upon Paris in the next few weeks.

Further ahead, I continue to recommend Christmas Market River Cruises on the great rivers of Europe beginning in mid-November (the Rhine and Danube are best for the markets). Given the new ships launched the past two years, I suspect the Caribbean may offer great travel values next fall and winter – since the cruise lines have thousands of new beds to fill weekly. The bigger ships offer a floating resort experience for people less interested in the destination.

Whatever your plans for the weekend and summer ahead, stay safe, stay happy and stay healthy!