Hi from Rick: The Conventional Wisdom...Isn't
|Venice? Try St. Petersburg.|
It's funny being in my line of work right now. The "conventional wisdom" is that the bottom has fallen out of European travel. Back in Edmonds, during a brief break from my research and filming, people have come up to me with very serious faces (like I have a relative on life support), asking, "How is your business doing?" "Sorry," I say, "we're doing fine."
This past month we launched our 2009 tour season...and just as many people have booked tours as last year at this time. It's costing more now, but our travelers seem to understand that Europe is just as magical as ever — the two things really aren't connected.
We have had one surprise: our best-selling 2009 tour is the Best of St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Helsinki in 9 Days. Seeing that our travelers are being drawn to our most off-beat destination reminds me of what separates them from those who stay at home: an insatiable curiosity about the world and how it's changing.
Just a few years ago, labor in the Soviet Union was actually cheaper than light bulbs. As I walked through a museum in St. Petersburg, an old babushka lady would accompany me, turning the lights on and off as we went from room to room. A few years later, as Tallinn was being introduced to capitalism, I stopped at a popular outdoor café, its wicker chairs rocking on the rough cobbles. The seat I wanted seemed empty but it had someone's vest hanging on it. So I walked over to another one...it had a vest too. Then I realized that on the back of every chair hung a different vest. Not to save seats, and not for sale...just as a fun decoration.
The famous attractions will always draw plenty of travelers to Europe. But connecting you with vibrant, thriving cultures and a changing world first-hand — spiced with those unanticipated little "Aha!" moments — that's our recipe for success. (And why I'm heading back to the Baltics in September.)
In this month's Tour News we'll give you a fresh taste of Scandinavia, the Baltics and Russia — with a smörgasbord of articles, a radio podcast, and an interview with a guide who just can't get enough of Stockholm.
No matter where you go with us in 2009, be sure to save room for lots of "Aha!"