BRUSSELLS, BELGIUM — Nearly 13 million Americans visited Europe in 2006, a 4% increase from the previous year, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Commerce Dept.'s Office of Travel & Tourism Industries. The European Travel Commission says those numbers will increase another two-to-three percent this year.
Travelers are more willing than ever to take long weekends in Western Europe, says Conrad Van Triggelen, chairman of the European Travel Commission. Another trend is "combining the known and the unknown" by visiting landmarks in a major city, then heading off to the countryside, he said.
"Seeing the Eiffel Tower is still a great thrill, as is going to the Vatican. But there is a subset of more sophisticated travelers yearning to see a more authentic side of Europe," said Pauline Frommer, the travel writer and editor.
Americans are also increasingly taking "experiential vacations," said Peter Frank, editor of Concierge.com. "They want to engage in an activity — windsurfing in Croatia, hiking the pilgrim's trail to Santiago de Compostela (in Spain), or taking a cookery class in Italy."