Tourists are rediscovering the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Caribbean beaches and African savanna.
If you are dreaming about island hopping in the Aegean Sea or calypso dancing on a Caribbean cruise, industry experts say you’ve probably missed the boat for this year. Cruise lines that struggled to get a meager conga line going during the pandemic are now struggling to find space for your deck lounger.
Travel industry experts report the summer vacation is alive and well. Eighty-five percent of Americans plan to travel this summer, according to the “Summer Travel Survey & Trends 2023” report by The Vacationer. From French cafés to African safaris to the Nashville music scene and mega cruises, tourists are showing up in a big way, and travel companies are busy.
The romance of travel can perhaps best be seen in the “City of Love,” according to U.S. News & World Report. The publication lists Paris as its No. 1 Best Vacation Spot. “It’s the charm – the sidewalk cafes, the people watching and the amazing French wines,” explained Avenues of the World Travel Advisor Monika Leuenberger.
Major attractions include the Louvre Museum, where the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo greet an estimated 45,000 people a day, the Eiffel Tower, romantically aglow at night, the Palace of Versailles, considered one of the finest achievements of 17th century French art and Monet’s Garden, where visitors can almost recreate the famous impressionist artist’s water lily paintings with an iPhone.
The same report ranks London as No. 2; however, USA Todayplaces the land of Big Ben and big palaces royally at the top of its list. “There is just so much amazing history and it’s very easy to visit as there is no language barrier, which intimidates some people,” said Leuenberger. “While it’s a huge city, it’s easy to navigate and the British Museum is fantastic! Buckingham Palace is always a favorite and there are great shows. This city truly covers it all!”
Travelers Choice Awards by Trip Advisor lists Cancun its No. 1 travel destination, considered to be in the heart of the Mexican Caribbean with its famous white beaches and turquoise blue sea. It’s also a great value, says Leuenberger. “The big draw are the fabulous beaches and the interesting Cenotes, the freshwater underground caves with an opening in the top. It has resorts for everyone, from the family-friendly all-inclusive to the exclusive intimate resort where you have your own plunge pool.”
Meanwhile, cruise ships are filling up fast, so much so that it’s difficult to find a cabin. “Some river cruises are fully sold out through this fall,” she said. “The smaller the ship, the quicker it fills up and as ships fill up, prices go up.”
Also, biking and hiking trips have become very popular, and many travelers combine a week of hiking/biking with a cruise in Europe.
“These really get you to soak up a place and explore it. Although I’m a little biased, I think Switzerland is the best place to explore the outdoors because our mountains are so beautiful, getting around is so easy and the diversity of hiking trails is absolutely amazing. You can do a panoramic trail where you take a gondola up to the mountain and then you follow the ridgeline and see some lakes along the way, you have something to eat or drink at one of the mountain huts and you can take a different gondola back down to the little town where you started. Or you can go on a full-day, really strenuous hike into the Alps.”
Popular among Northern Arizona travelers are trips to South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia. “Safaris are on everyone’s bucket list, and you need to go while you can still handle the longer flights and traveling through the bush in an open four-wheel drive vehicle while watching animals in the wild! Trekking with the gorillas is not only for the super fit, anyone that can do basic hikes will enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience! We really qualify our clients to make sure they get the best trip possible.”
However, you are not roughing it if you go on a safari, she points out. The tents have carpeting and bathroom faculties, including a shower. “I love the tents because you can hear the wildlife at night,” she said. “Imaging that you are enjoying a sunset, looking at the animals, you are out in the open in a little plunge pool having a glass of wine.”
The key to visiting Africa, she says, is understanding how diverse the continent is. “If you go to South Africa, you have the city of Cape Town, which is comparable to San Francisco. I think South Africa has the best cuisine in the world – it does such an amazing job with flavors, the wines are amazing and of course, you have unique meats.”
For travel in the U.S., she says Nashville and Seattle are competing for tourists with New York City, New Orleans, San Diego and Honolulu. “Nashville has been amazing. They have added so many hotels and are adding even more activities. Anyone who enjoys live music has to go to Nashville.”
Seattle appeals to city lovers as much as to nature lovers. “It offers an abundance of outdoor adventures. Mount Rainier is only three hours away. Also, you can take a ferry over to one of the islands. We love the vibrant cafés, the fun fish market and just exploring the city!”
Whether your dream vacation includes water, mountains, art or gorillas, Leuenberger highly recommends planning and booking early and buying travel insurance. FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN
Avenues of the World is based in Flagstaff. Owner Monika and Yves Leuenberger are celebrating the travel business’s 30th anniversary this year. For more information, go to or call 928-556-0853.
To hear more travel adventures and tips from Monika, watch Zonie Living at https://starworldwidenetworks.com/shows/bonnie-stevens.
Courtesy Photo: Avenues of the World Travel Advisor Monika Leuenberger says hiking the Inca Trail is one of her favorite experiences. “I have hiked it twice and there is not much that I love more than sending my clients to Peru! Ecuador and the Galapagos are also a popular destination for the active traveler.”