Hostels and tour operators are gearing up for a summer without Australians
Imagine a European hostel without any Australian backpackers. Imagine a transcontinental bus tour without any of these familiar accents.
That’s what awaits this summer in Europe as the continent emerges from COVID-19 lockdowns and winter hibernation. Travelers are expected to be set to return and this is the start of the new post-vaccination normal. Only without Australians.
For businesses that generally depended on the annual influx of visitors from the Antipodes, this required other projects.
“We have such a strong association and history when it comes to Australian customers,” says Dylan Lazarus, digital marketing manager for Beds and Bars Group, which runs legendary backpacker sites such as the Flying Pig Hostel in Amsterdam and St Christopher’s in Shepherds Bush in London.
“There’s a direct association between our brands and Australian backpackers, and obviously they have their own association in terms of the culture and vibe they bring to our properties. So how’s it going without them? Certainly. Part of the success of hostels is that you have that real international dynamic, and the Australian market is a big part of that for us. “
Due to Australia’s ban on international travel, the number of Australians visiting Europe has fallen by more than 98%. Although Australia has never been the largest tourism market for a European country, Australian tourists were important to many tourism businesses.
Ahead of the pandemic, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show more than 200,000 Australians headed to Europe per month during the northern summer of 2019, with over 76,000 to the UK alone. Last summer in the north, as COVID-19 ravaged the continent and Australia’s ban took effect, the numbers fell to just over 3,000 per month.
With no Australians to fill dorms this year and COVID-19 restrictions changing the style of accommodation hostels can offer, Beds and Bars has had to change its offerings for the summer, including events social without Australians that he organizes. .
“We saved a bit of money on cleaning,” jokes Lazarus. “Events must have changed with the new rules anyway, but we certainly don’t have as many people asking to watch the AFL as there used to be.
“I say this sincerely and seriously, we absolutely miss the Australians. We also miss our Australian staff, as we had a lot of Australians who would be a big part of the energy of the teams. But obviously a lot of them came back. with them over the past year, and you can feel this gap. We really hope they decide to come back and join us. [in 2022]. “
Insight Vacations, owned by the Travel Corporation (which also owns Trafalgar Tours and Contiki) has traditionally prepared for a large number of Australian travelers to join its European tours during the summer season. Insight CEO Ulla Hefel Bohler said the loss of Australians would mean a change in the products offered this year.
“Australians are so important travelers to us,” she said, “and what’s going to change a bit this summer is Australians like longer trips, they come for two weeks or three weeks and take trips. consecutive trips, while Americans tend to gravitate towards shorter stays. But honestly right now it’s more about where to go, what’s open. Normally we go to 44 countries in Europe , we have over 140 different routes, so now it’s a question of what we can do [for the guests we have]. “
Currently there are several options for international visitors to Europe, with more chances to open in the coming weeks. Iceland, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Spain and France accept all international travelers, with different entry requirements. Switzerland will start doing it from the end of June, Ireland from July 19 and the UK from the end of July. And the message to travelers who want to take advantage of it in the future is: get vaccinated.
“Americans are really advanced on their immunization program,” said Hefel Boher, “so when we announced [in March] that Iceland was opening up to anyone who was vaccinated and that we would organize trips there … we had reservations the minute we announced this. It was truly the litmus test, and the pent-up demand is very real. Once you are sure you can travel, people can’t wait. “
For Australian travelers, Insight is now focusing on its new domestic program, but with a view to welcoming Antipodeans back to Europe in the summer of 2022. “Australians are wonderful travelers,” says Hefel Boher, “they have that thirst for exploration they are so much fun – we can’t wait to find them. “
The Beds and Bars Group is also counting on 2022 for the return of its traditional clientele.
“I guess the message we want to get out,” says Dylan Lazarus, “is that we are good. We are functioning. We are surviving it all. And as soon as you are ready to come back here, give Let us know, we will prepare the place for the Australians. We will be ready. “