History, genealogy and ancestral tours that unearth one’s family tree are Europe’s speciality and travel advisors are in a position to design one unforgettable experience for their clients.
Have your customers ever flipped through old family records, an old book of photographs, or even a diary that their forebearers left behind?
A trip to Europe can unlock a great deal about a person’s family history by offering a glimpse into the lives of the people who carried your client’s name before them.
“Travel and tourism is ultimately driven by personal stories that have the power to move people. And Europe’s diverse history has the power to inspire a sense of remembrance and kinship in its many foreign friends,” says Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission (ETC).
“Whether it is reliving experiences to keep memories alive or tracing your roots to restore long-lost connections, it is a celebration and strengthening of identity.”
Connecting clients to their roots
Like many people all around the world, if your client traced their roots back a few generations, in all likelihood they would find a great-grandmother or great-great-grandfather who was born somewhere on the continent of Europe.
For several decades between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Europeans in great numbers left their homes behind and emigrated to new places—Canada, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few.
When they disembarked their ships in a new land, they often had a chance to restart their lives, to create businesses, invent things, build families.
In little time, and as immigrants typically do, these new residents made massive contributions to their new countries, becoming leaders in business, science, education, art, medicine, and much more.
Several generations later, the sons and daughters of these immigrations—i.e. your clients and their family members —are now continuing their legacy.
Exploring the family tree
“We invite Canadians to be curious, build bridges with their European heritage, learn from the past and pave the way to new adventures that will shape their future,” says Mr. Santander.
Perhaps your clients’ family came from Poland? Or Ireland, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden or Norway?
This is an opportunity for your clients to dive deep into who they are, where they came from and who their children and grandchildren will one day be, perhaps.
There are plenty of resources out there to get their journey started.
With starting points like the names and dates of birth of parents and grandparents, you will be shocked at how much information is out there. So much of it is crowd-sourced, too, by other branches of one’s family tree.
Once your client has a family tree in place, the next step is planning the visit, which is where you, the travel advisor, comes in.
At the moment, making firm plans to travel to Europe might not be the wisest of moves. But when the time comes, Europe will be ready to help unearth your client’s familial connections.
If this is something your clients are keen on doing, a great way to get started (once you know the countries and regions their family lived in) is to research historical points of interest.
If your client’s ancestors came from Ireland, for instance, you can research the history of the Irish struggle for independence or the food and drink their forebearers would have eaten or drunk before they emigrated.
Another idea, when building an itinerary, is to plan a visit to the city or county archive, like the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast.
These archives often contain all sorts of familial records going back generations.
Or perhaps your clients have German roots? Visits to Delmenhorst, Oldenburg and Cloppenburg to experience an open-air museum will give them a sense of the life of a peasant and, perhaps, shed light on the reasons why people emigrated.
In fact, all across Germany, there are plaques and museums that commemorate German immigrants who have made a mark on the world.
Consider Buttenheim, the home of the Levi Strauss museum or Schiefweg to learn about Emerenz Meier, a courageous woman who left for Chicago.
Does Polish blood run through clientele? Perhaps it’s time they visit the Emigration Museum in the seaside city of Gdynia, which also has a thriving food and coffee scene.
The Polin Museum in Warsaw is also an excellent way to connect with the past in an interactive and in-depth way.
Finally, you’ll want to direct your clients to the old ports where ships for the new world set sail.
A great place to start is Rotterdam, where the beautiful building that once held the Holland America Line offices still stands.
Once your clients discover their places of origin, you, as a travel professional, will gain a better understanding of the amazing places you can send them.
The power of connections
By guiding your clients on a European history trip, they will discover more about their past, and in all likelihood, receive more insight into the present.
“We know that non-essential transatlantic travel in the aftermath of the pandemic will be driven to a large degree by those personal stories and human connections, either with family, friends or significant others,” says Mr. Santander.
While we’re all waiting for travel to resume, you, the travel advisor, can get a head start on building that next great European itinerary by starting your research.
Click here to learn more. You can also follow the hashtag #HistoricallyCurious on all social media channels.
And remember to visit ETC's exclusive portal for Canadian travel agents here!
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