European travelers are looking for new destinations with the summer heat

Unusual summer burner or the new normal?

Some travelers are not waiting to find out if this year’s heat wave in southern Europe is an anomaly or part of a longer-term pattern caused by climate change.

Tom Marchant, co-founder of London-based luxury travel operator Black Tomato, told CNBC that his company has already seen a shift in interest from travelers hoping to escape the summer heat.

“We’re seeing strong interest and desire to capitalize on the Scandi summer,” he said. “Scandinavian destinations such as Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland are seeing significant growth on the sales front.”

“Scandi summer” trend

According to the data published by the European Travel Commission, interest in visiting the Mediterranean decreased by 10% between June and November of this year. The summer of 2022 was the hottest summer season in Europe.

On the other hand, summer bookings to Scandinavia increased by 37% compared to last year, Marchant said, citing company data.

“And we expect that to continue to rise,” he said.

From passing out to running, travelers brave the heat at popular summer destinations

According to the Expedia Group, the “Scandi summer” trend is also being observed among vacation home renters.

German travelers in particular are shifting their vacation searches north on Vrbo, with interest in southern Norway up 35% in the first two weeks of July compared to the same period in June, according to Expedia Group.

The company data also showed increased German interest in holiday homes in the southern Swedish provinces of Skane and Blekinge.

Elsewhere, holiday home searches from across Europe have increased significantly:

  • Edinburgh, Scotland – +20%
  • Riga, Latvia – +25%
  • Tallinn, Estonia – +25%

In Europe, interest in renting a house in the southern Swedish province of Smaland rivals that of the popular Spanish island of Tenerife and surpasses that of the Italian beach town of Rimini, according to Expedia Group.

Queues in Spain

Spain is the most popular travel destination in a survey of more than 6,000 European travelers by the European Travel Commission. According to Expedia Group, travel interest is changing there as well.

According to the company, holiday home searches for popular destinations such as the Costa Blanca, Costa Brava and Majorca remained stable from June to July, but interest in renting homes on Spain’s northern coast increased.

Home searches have reportedly increased in the culinary powerhouse autonomous community known as Costa Verde, Costa de Cantabria and the Basque Country.

Alternatives to the Greek Islands

Temperatures have dropped since then, but last month’s wildfires in Greece forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the islands of Rhodes, Corfu and Evia – some still in their swimsuits.

Tourists wait at an airport during a forest fire evacuation on July 23, 2023 in Rhodes island, Greece.

Will Vassilopoulos | Afp | Getty Images

The Greek islands are among Europe’s top summer travel destinations, but Marchant said some people head to another set of islands further north.

“The Lofoten Islands in Norway are particularly attractive to our customers with families as an ideal alternative to the islands of Greece and Croatia,” he said, “especially for those who don’t want the intense heat of the media.”

Others skip island trips altogether, he said.

“Destinations such as Canada, US National Parks and Europe’s hidden gems like Slovenia are also particularly popular.”

Italy in autumn

Summer may be synonymous with travel for many, but the threat of heat waves, wildfires, floods and hurricanes is pushing some to take their annual trips to other seasons.

More people choose “shoulder season travel” where hotel prices are lower availability and better temperatures, Marchant said.

“In the southern heel of Italy, Puglia and Sicily are strong, but especially in the shoulder season, in the fall,” he said. “You’ll still have warm and sunny weather well into October, given its proximity to North Africa, but less crowds and a more relaxed experience.”

Trade beaches for mountains

Martant said that as summer temperatures rise in Europe, more people are seeking higher ground and mountainous areas.

“We’re seeing renewed interest in the Dolomites, the Swiss and Austrian Alps, places like Lucerne and Solden,” he said.

According to the European Travel Commission, a spring survey of more than 6,000 European travelers found that the No. 1 reason for choosing a travel destination was “good weather.” Now there is a growing interest in traveling to places like Lucerne, Switzerland in the summer.

Olyasolodenko Istock | Getty Images

Marchant said that even in countries that many travelers think are unbearably hot, there are cool spots at high altitudes.

“Morocco is a great example,” he said.

Marrakech can be toasty in the summer, but the Atlas Mountains can be cooler — and even lively at night, he said. Plus, summer is low season in Morocco, so it will be quieter and likely to be better value.

Most soldiers

Travelers who have already made travel plans seem to be staying the course.

Cynthia Nerangis, founder of LemonLime Travel, which specializes in trips to Greece, Italy and France, told CNBC Travel that her clients are sticking with their plans to visit Greece this summer – from Athens to the Cyclades and Crete.

Bookings at train, bus and flight booking company Omio have increased this year, but cancellations remain low, said Peter Tomlinson, vice president of data.

“Despite extreme heat, forest fires and rising flight prices, Omio only canceled 3% of tickets in Southern Europe,” Tomlinson told CNBC.

This was stated by the representative of InsureMyTrip insurance company there has been no noticeable increase in calls or emails from customers wanting to change or cancel their plans due to the heat. Similarly, another travel company, Squaremouth, said it had not heard from any travelers seeking to cancel trips or make claims affected by the heat wave.

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