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Has the pent up demand been spent?

I scrolled through this year's tours by date and availability and was surprised at the large number of tours that had plenty of space still available. I remember when tours were first made available after the pause due to covid and people could not register fast enough! I was one of them. I signed up for 2 tours because I figured I had missed one with the pandemic.

I am registered for a tour this spring, but I don't feel the same pressure that I did a year ago. I told my sister that "I was cutting back on travel this year." She laughed and asked me to tell her about the trips I had planned. I told her about trips in February, April, May, June, Sept and November. Okay, well maybe I'm not really cutting back on travel this year, but somehow it feels more relaxed.

Are there a lot of people that have been holding off registering for RS tours, is demand down, or is this really a more typical pre-covid pattern?

Posted by
24061 posts

I wonder whether some folks got sticker shock when they checked airfares to Europe.

Posted by
6223 posts

Can't speak specifically to the current level of demand for Rick Steves tours. But overall, everywhere, there seems to be unprecedented demand all across the worldwide travel industry.

Also, China has only started to open in in the past couple weeks -- and many Chinese are currently occupied visiting family for Chinese New Year. In a couple more weeks, a lot of Chinese tourists will be heading out to pretty much everywhere, after having been completely locked down for three years. I think we will all notice.

I don't think this is a temporary thing, a brief surge relieving pent-up demand which will soon pass. I think this may just be (pardon the over-used expression) the New Normal. I believe that the pandemic has triggered a significant change in many people's outlook: YOLO, and if you put off things until "someday" you may never get to do those things. I think a lot of people figured that out during the depths of the pandemic and they've now altered their priorities. Time will tell, but I would not make plans going forward with the expectation that demand is going to cool off noticeably.

Posted by
1020 posts

Carol, I’m not sure about the waning pent up demand for others, only will comment for myself. As an independent solo traveler, Ive rarely thought about reserving a tour. However, since I’m not getting any younger and not moving as easily as I used to, thinking more and more about going on a tour. In 2010, I joined the RS Heart of Italy tour and tagged on 3-4 days on each end of the trip since this was my first time traveling in Europe. The RS tour was fabulous and now I am considering a tour to Turkey. Since i am already going to Iceland and Portugal this year, I will be looking at the Turkey tour for 2024. Unfortunately, RS has not yet posted the 2024 tours for Turkey yet.

Unlike you, I really can only do one major trip a year. For Turkey, I may tack on another week and go back to Italy. Been there twice before (RS Heart of Italy with Tuscany and Umbria and then a trip to Rome, Sorrento Amalfi). It’s time to explore Bologna and Matera. So, I’m just waiting for RS to post Turkey 2024 tours.

Posted by
3374 posts

I think in one of the latest travel talks, Cameron Hewitt mentioned that there was a noticeable drop off in the number of people signing up for certain tours, especially in central Europe, probably due to fears of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Posted by
2101 posts

Carol, I think what looks like the large number of tours available is more like the added dates for popular tours. The June posted tours seem to be the waitlisted tours. I'm taking a less popular tour in June (Berlin, Prague & Vienna). Only two dates are on "wait" list, no dates have been added. I wonder if RS over planned the number of tours based on 2022 bookings and added too many. Although I booked the June tour as soon as it posted last June, looking forward to 2024, I don't feel that pressure to jump in as early.

Airfare is what it is. Demand and fuel costs are influencing the cost. I booked mine in October. Prices have gone up slightly since then, but never down. I do watch it closely since United can change my flights whenever they feel like it and twice my seat assignments have disappeared.

Posted by
6223 posts

I wonder whether some folks got sticker shock when they checked airfares to Europe.

Perhaps, but have you noticed, those planes are still very, very full, even with sky-high ticket prices? High ticket prices reflect high demand (fuel costs have come down).

The airlines would like to expand (by putting more planes in the air) if they could - they are seeing incredible demand. They still have a lot of planes parked on the ground, waiting to be put back into service. But they can't do that because of an ongoing worldwide shortage of qualified pilots (and that's a problem that will not be solved quickly).

Posted by
66 posts

FYI - During the Festival of Europe Turkey presentation yesterday, Rick showed a summary chart of tours with available seats - around 550 seats available of a projected 25000+ seats planned for the year - about 2%. I think the demand is there. Some tours seem to have more supply - Poland and Eastern Europe - perhaps the war is impacting those sales right now.

Posted by
113 posts

The My Way Alpine tours for 2023 sold out pretty quickly. There's only 3 dates left with 1 spot in each.

Posted by
5726 posts

I signed up for two RS tours last year, but I cancelled both of them a month or two later and traveled twice independently. I just wasn’t ready to be in a tour group with Covid still a factor.

I signed for one of them again a few months ago for this summer and not planning to cancel it.

It would be interesting to know when the tours were being filled up so quickly, what was their eventual rate of cancellation.

Posted by
1166 posts

Airline prices are definitely up. And I found it so sad that the BOEE tour isn't selling as well for 2023. We went in June 2022 and had a marvelous time! If you didn't know Putin had invaded you wouldn't notice it in any of the countries on that tour except for all the flags and signs supporting Ukraine. Especially in the Czech Republic and Poland there were Ukrainian flags everywhere. It was nice to see the support for them. We struggled to find even one flag in Budapest (we did find one along with a flyer on the Liberty Monument I think it is called expressing support for President Zelenskyy) which was disappointing but not surprising given Orban and the Fidesz party.

Posted by
1778 posts

Tours may be down but judging by my hotel reservations for April, demand is still at a peak.

Posted by
111 posts

I can only speak for myself. I did not book an RS tour this year because I was not certain if masks would be required. I was on the Village Italy tour last June. Our group wore our masks; however, aside from public transportation, we were the only people everywhere we went. In June, Italy was too hot to walk around in a mask. I will travel independently this year so that I can choose what is appropriate for me. (I did have my RS tour picked out but decided against it this year.)


Posted by
7755 posts

Decision making time for us was last October - November. The forecast at the time for COVID looked a bit grim. And truthfully, it's still a factor since it's not over. So we've made our plans for domestic travel this year, and have an eye on two RS tours in '24.

PS I was just looking at some airfares to Germany for next winter, and they're actually better than I've seen in the last few years.

Posted by
9881 posts

Suspect there is still lots of demand.

Caught only the end of a news report that some airline(s) are considering/planning on putting some a380s back in service in 2024.

'Normal' still has a chance to return.

Posted by
7512 posts

DIY travel is up.
There were many group tours stories where one person caught Covid and then it ran through the whole group.
Group tours are higher risk since there is no knowledge of or control over a stranger's sense of hygiene

Posted by
1925 posts

I’m pretty sure they are adding additional tour dates. In December we signed up for Paris & the Heart of France 2023. At the time, most of the September and October dates were sold out. I looked last week and there are a number of new dates. Based on that, I think demand is up.

Posted by
2014 posts

Carol - I had the same question that you did. After looking at all the waitlisted Sicily tours, it looks like people maybe concentrating in different area. There seem to be significantly more tours there than even last year. However, with the liberal RS policy for cancellation last year, I saw a lots more dates open up during the 2022 season and I’m not seeing that this year. The full tours seem to be staying full. It will be interesting to see how the final numbers add up.

It does seem to me that the forum is busier than ever with independent travelers.

Posted by
8628 posts

It would be interesting to know when the tours were being filled up so quickly, what was their eventual rate of cancellation

I have a feeling this was, if not huge, then at least sizable.

Posted by
84 posts

"I can only speak for myself. I did not book an RS tour this year because I was not certain if masks would be required"


My husband has a medical issue needing surgery so we had to cancel our VFR tour this spring but to be honest.......

even if he had not.....we were going to cancel the tour until masks were not required on the bus, required to test before the tour (I am vac'd & boosted) and the possibility of being kicked off the tour anywhere along the tour was still in effect.

Posted by
7755 posts

You can always get kicked off the tour if you come down with an infectious disease. Its not just a COVID thing.

Posted by
145 posts

In 6 RS tours I took pre-Covid there was always one or more people with an infectious disease like cold, flu or whatever. No one was removed from any of those tours. This IS a Covid only issue and is clearly causing some travelers to avoid RS tours.

Posted by
846 posts

Re getting kicked off for an infectious disease, I wouldn't overthink it. We're not out to kick people off tour!

Outside of what is specifically cited in our covid protocols, we have the right to kick someone off our tours for any reason. It's rare, but it's usually due to poor behavioral choices, and I'd say our tour members largely appreciate it when such people are removed! As for infectious diseases, yeah we'd kick someone off if they have Ebola! (This is a theoretical example... no one has ever come on tour with Ebola.) Are we going to kick you off the tour for having a common cold? Nope! We rely on our guides to make smart choices and they are required to work with our home office for any issues that arise before someone is removed from a tour.

Getting this thread back on topic, the demand is more typical this year. We'll never match what happened when we released 2022 tours for sale and 17,000+ seats sold in 5 days. For 2023, (edit:) as of Feb 1 we have sold 29,000 seats out of ~32,000 available. There are still seats, but historically that's not a lot left at this point. I'm not trying to give a sales pitch here, but realistically if you're thinking you'd take a tour this year, I'd sign up in the next month or two before we only have singles left.

Fwiw, Eastern Europe and Poland might be ideal with fewer travelers considering it this year. For anyone even remotely concerned, we'd re-route or cancel (with full refund) any tours that involve any significant risk.

Posted by
3239 posts

we have the right to kick someone off our tours for any reason. It's
rare, but it's usually due to poor behavioral choices

That would make a fun talk for one of the Monday Night Topics....I've only been on one RS tour, but based on the quality of my tour mates, I'm having trouble imagining anyone misbehaving more than perhaps chewing with their mouth open? Late for a bus? Questioning Rick's fashion sense? We're not talking Spring Break behaviour are we?