One of the lessons I have learned from my interaction with consumer travel publications is that consumer travel editors downplay the influence and power of the escorted tour market. They would be shocked to hear what I hear from subscribers to their publications who read an article about a destination and then call me to discuss it.
More often than not, it seems clear that the writer of the piece was comped on the trip they took, and it’s written as the result of a single junket, photos artfully composed (and perhaps tweaked) by a professional photographer.
My clients — their readers — rarely actually want to travel like that. Instead, many of my clients, and I assume most of yours, are “social travelers” who delight in the company of potential new friends when they travel in like-minded groups. To be sure, I have a consultancy with a fairly high number of those who would never set foot on a tour bus without knowing the other passengers personally or knowing something about their level of sophistication.
We do, of course, have clients who most prefer the back seat of a limo and who covet private access. The slick magazines make it seem like everyone travels like that.
But you and I know they don’t.
And although travel magazines often make it seem as though everyone in the United States wants to see the world solely in the company of their partner, the truth is that from a price/value and socialization standpoint, the group tour appeals to the vast majority of overseas travelers, unless they have a rare bit of what I call “isolationist DNA.”
Further, I’ve concluded that travel editors and writers rarely have any real sense of what travel advisors do for a living. Yes, sometimes we have discussions with clients about where they should go. But in the vast majority of situations, our clients know where they want to go; they just don’t know which travel methodology is best suited to deliver on their dreams.
And that’s where we come in. Going to France? I have eleven cruise itineraries in my pocket that highlight some incredible ports in that country. Alternatively, my land tour options can give you several nights in each location and, instead of looking at the Mediterranean, you are traveling the byways of Europe, passing farms and villages of note where even restroom stops can be Instagram worthy.
Or, there is French “hotel barging” and more than a few incredible rivers — the Seine, the Rhone, the Loire — for riverboating. Or, there are the hiking and biking firms that provide the undeniable joy of a bike ride or managed walk through the villages of the Luberon.
We also have, in our portfolios, collections of specialized journeys for those who love combining wine-focused touring with great boutique accommodations. There are also a wide variety of food-focused programs. We sell rail journey options and tours for sophisticated travelers who seek company while still staying at five-star hotels with their small group of similar opinions and similar-sized 401(k)s.
Lately, I’ve been designing group programs that have real estate components. My clients may not buy an apartment in the 6th arrondissement, but they would love to see what is for sale and get a sense of price.
So, that is what we do. We settle the “where” in short order and spend many hours concentrating on the “how.” We are, to a large degree, “travel methodologists.”
See if you like that term and find it comfortable.
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