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TOURING

TRENDS IN TOURING Once synonymous with passive 'herded' groups, there’s now a touring product to fit a wider range of clients, and a growing demand to tap into, says Debbie Ward

T

he touring market continues to break down into tighter segments with size, transport and demographics still fragmenting. “The concept of touring has evolved over recent years, from the traditional escorted coach tour carrying 50-plus passengers to a more flexible and dynamic product range,” explains Travel 2’s Senior Product and Commercial Manager for Touring, Europe and Cruise, Mark Henderson. Anything from rail to trekking and many special interests are now covered, he points out, adding, “a key change is the degree of flexibility now available within tours. This includes more time for customers to add on experiences tailored to their interests.” This is part of a wider shift towards smallgroup touring, believes Explore Worldwide’s Global Head of Sales, Ben Ittensohn, with even traditional coach operators having to fragment and personalise their product to meet demand. “People are now seeing how much closer you can get to destinations, culture and local life in a small group,” he says. The shift appears to be influenced by the wider trend for authenticity. “Experiential

tours, whether food-, walking-, cultural- or multi-sport-based are consistently growing as travellers are interested in experiencing the real day-to-day atmosphere and ambience of a destination,” says Henderson. Experiential travel In response to demand for more varied tours Ramblers Walking Holidays has added mindfulness and wellbeing, bird watching, and skills like navigation. “Clients are also looking for memorable, low-impact, environmentally aware experiences," says Sales and Reservations Manager, Paco Gonzalez. “They expect to come back from the break with the feeling they’ve gained a sense of accomplishment.” Increasingly, socially conscious travellers seek out community projects, says Travel 2. And Explore notes that responsible travel is now ‘more relevant’ to consumers than it was even five years ago. Though social awareness is a factor, the experiential travel boom is also fuelled by bragging rights, admits Ittensohn. “This year we launched a trip to Lebanon and sales have just gone through the roof. It’s social currency to say you’ve just done

eight days in Lebanon or five in Chernobyl,” he explains. Touring operators’ high repeat booking rates also drive innovation. “Some 21% of our travellers last year had done 10 or more trips with us so you can see we have a real need to keep developing programmes,” says Ittensohn. Widening horizons Northern Peru is among the off-the-beaten track destinations tipped for growth by Journey Latin America. South Africa, Japan, Jordan and Lebanon are, meanwhile, selling strongly for Explore. It anticipates further Middle East growth and hopes for a return to form for Sri Lanka too. Good-value Turkey is also doing well and operators predict other shorthaul demand will bounce back as ‘Brexit wariness’ eases. As ever, film and TV coverage has an effect. Demand for Explore’s Chernobyl tour quadrupled after the HBO/Sky miniseries about the nuclear disaster. Judi Dench's recent programme about Borneo and its lovable orangutans has driven significant sales to the Malaysian

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Selling Travel July/August 2019  

The world in one magazine Cover Story: Caribbean, plus how to sell... Mediterranean • South Africa • Middle East • California • Canada • Na...

Selling Travel July/August 2019  

The world in one magazine Cover Story: Caribbean, plus how to sell... Mediterranean • South Africa • Middle East • California • Canada • Na...