Touring trends in a post-covid world
Travellers are touring again and some pre-pandemic trends are resurging while others have been born from the deprivations of the last couple of years. Operators tell us what and where is in demand and share their tips on how agents can maximise the opportunities.
“After so much time spent apart, it’s clear that families are determined to make up for their lost opportunities and to create lifelong memories,” says Rachel Jelley, sales and marketing manager for Sunvil.
“The [multigenerational] trips [we’ve] crafted are complex to ensure all parties have the holiday that they most desire: swimming pools and multi-bedroomed accommodation for children; close proximity to amenities for parents; active or themed excursions and sites of historical or cultural importance within easy reach for all.”
She adds: “We’ve noted a desire for grandparents to take their grandchildren on a trip down memory lane. Island-hopping holidays in Greece, for example, completed in their early years, are being revisited with the family in tow.” Costa Rica, Peru, the Azores and winter touring in Scandinavia are also proving “incredibly popular,” says Jelley.
Lockdown has made people’s wish to “connect on a deeper level” when they travel even more acute believes David Mannix, co-founder and managing director of Arcadia Expeditions, which creates “immersive storytelling” tours.
He says: “Being away from the tourist trail leads to far more genuine engagement with local people, and having an in-built flexibility in each of our expeditions means we can take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, like being invited to a local wedding.
“Travel agents can tap into this trend for experiential travel by presenting their clients with innovative itineraries,” adds Mannix. “Clients are more savvy and demanding now; they will know what is formulaic and what is genuinely different.” Turkey, New Zealand, Botswana and an Iran trip camping with nomads are among Arcadia’s current client favourites.
“Approximately 40% of those that travel with Exodus are doing so individually. We’ve seen a rise in interest in 2022 for some of the ‘big-ticket’ trips that people haven’t felt able to book over the past two years, with destinations such as Jordan, Costa Rica and Finland proving the most popular for solo trips,” says product and commercial director Jim Eite.
“Small-group activities are a great way to meet new, like-minded friends as a solo traveller, and most trips comprise a mix of solos, couples and friends travelling together. We also have a range of solo traveller trips, Exodus Edits, aimed exclusively at those in their 30s and 40s – bite-size trips that maximise annual leave but blend adrenaline activities with much needed R&R.”
Adventurous but time-poor clients are pushing the “bite-size” tours trend, which has also been noticed by Regent Holidays. “Our clients tend to take several trips a year; a longer duration and several shorter trips,” explains brand manager Andrea Godfrey.
“Shorter tours are popular because they’re easier, particularly if they’re based in just one or two places – less packing, often more relaxing and they provide a good opportunity for people who may be unsure of joining a longer group tour to see if it works for them.
“Tours like our Short Break in the Faroes and Taste of Moldova are based in one place for five to six days, but still offer an opportunity to really get an immersive experience of an entire destination.”
Demand for touring with fewer than 25 passengers has been rising, with Riviera and Great Rail among operators introducing smaller groups in the pandemic.
Tours like this shouldn’t just be pushed to the Covid-nervous, says Edwina Coppock, head of trade sales for Titan. “Small-group tours are a fantastic option for travellers who are looking for a more personal experience. Offering a unique way to travel, with more immersive and off-the-beaten-track experiences, they have an engaging atmosphere that allows the group to naturally bond as friends.”
Product manager Phil Ellis adds that such travel better enables “meeting and interacting with the people who know the destination best – the locals”. Wild Costa Rica, and Madagascar, Land of the Lemur, both with a maximum 18 passengers, are among Titan’s popular tours.
“UK touring has grown in popularity, especially since the pandemic, as people have taken the opportunity to explore our beautiful country and now want to see more,” says Claire Dutton, trade sales manager at Just Go! Holidays.
She adds: “Learning whilst away has become more and more important, and the UK offers some great options.”
The operator’s Historic Houses programme, which combines self-drive to a hotel with local coach excursions, has been proving popular. It explores the architecture, craftsmanship, collections and family stories behind stately homes, castles and gardens.
“TV shows such as [ITV’s] Keeping Up With the Aristocrats, which goes behind the scenes of some of Britain’s oldest houses, has also helped raise the profile of some of these incredible properties,” adds Dutton.
Touring is not immune to the current upgrade trend and is a good sell for clients anxious about navigating Covid rules overseas, says Donna Jeavons, director of sales and marketing, UK & Europe, for TTC Tour Brands.
“Many consumers have saved money during the pandemic and are desperate to get away on a holiday, but may also be experiencing some degree of trepidation. This is why a premium or luxury escorted tour like Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold makes so much sense.”
Travellers want to make bucket-list ticks but “hassle-free and in style” she explains. “This is fantastic news for agents booking higher-end tours, because they can earn such healthy commissions. They can also be confident that, at that level, they will have a high percentage of return business.”
“Customers are definitely more aware of their carbon impact, particularly since COP26,” says Ben Ittensohn, director of global sales at Explore. “We’ve had customers that book land-only packages with us ask us to recommend how they can offset their own flights. There’s a definite trend towards more walking holidays… and we have some new products, particularly our collection of UK trips and, new for 2022, London2 rail adventures.”
Explore’s six guided small-group London2 trips enable clients to make their outward travel entirely by train (or both ways if they have the time).
Visiting multiple European countries on the way, the options include 11-day London to Istanbul, 15-day London to Athens, and a three-week rail journey to Morocco.
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