YOU TAKE THE REINS
Tailored, flexible, Instagram-friendly itineraries — introducing next-gen touring
As holiday-makers become more confident, demand for independent travel is set to boom, with custom itineraries and selfguided tour options growing in popularity – particularly with Millennials.
Recent research from Contiki suggests that 70 per cent of youth travellers want more free time to explore a city their own way, so the tour company has launched its new independent Insider trips. Designed for the next generation of solo travellers, each offers multiple addons, covering everything from a Vespa tour in Rome to cocktail mixing in Amsterdam.
Similarly, World Expeditions reports that this trend is driving demand for self-guided walks and Wendy Wu has released a new Flexible Tours range. “It gives our guests the opportunity to personalise their experience through a range of day tour options,” says Wendy Wu’s head of product, Bernadette Holmes. “Be it a cooking class in Hoi An, or simply enjoying a day exploring on foot or by tuktuk.”
BIGGER ISN’T BETTER
Despite the prolific “bigger is better” mentality, operators are predicting a serious downsizing in numbers.
“We’re seeing a real shift to small group touring,” says Bunnik Tours managing director, Dennis Bunnik. “A smaller group allows for a more immersive experience with a greater degree of flexibility and freedom for independent exploration.
Chip Popescu, managing director of Europe Holidays, agrees: “Demand for small group tours is steadily increasing as special interests have grown and travellers seek more variety.” Chip estimates that this demand is as much as 50 per cent for all bookings and is continuing to rise.
Next year, adventure tour company Peregrine Adventures is following the trend by lowering its group size from 16 to 12. “Smaller groups allow travellers more access to the amazing knowledge and local experience of our leaders,” says Peregrine Adventures general manager Robyn Nixon.
Revamped tours are understandably luring younger demographics which are waking up to the fact that touring doesn’t necessarily equate to immovable itineraries and generic sightseeing. Millennials already account for about 20 per cent of the world’s tourists and by 2020 they’ll be taking 47 per cent more international trips, which is a lucrative market.
Contiki is already way ahead, capitalising on the youth market’s passion for social media with the launch of Instagram SNAP tours. Designed after research revealed that social media is the second highest influencer of destination decisions among the youth market, routes are curated around photo potential.
Busabout have gone one step further by using user-generated photography for their 2018 tour brochures. “We know that Millennials are four times more likely to click through off the back of seeing a real experience,” explains Busabout manager Tina McIntosh.
AS SEEN ON SCREEN
In a similar vein, as a result of epic box set marathons, “set-jetting” – where fans travel to see the real-life filming locations from their favourite movies and TV shows – is fast becoming a legitimate travel trend.
More and more tour companies are responding to the increase by offering tailor-made itineraries around the scene-stealing backdrops from these iconic shows – whether it’s Twin Peaks in Washington State, or Game of
Thrones’ capital of the world, Ireland.
Of course, with younger travellers comes tech – lots of tech.
“Australians’ increasing use of mobile internet, especially while travelling, is making a big impact on how they plan and book their holiday,” says Wotif.com travel expert Amanda Behre.
“We’re seeing more travellers
THIS CRAVING FOR IMMERSIVE, AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES HAS BEEN HEARD
making tour bookings through our app and mobile site.”
Specific apps to make touring easier are being developed. Some of the newest crop includes Collette’s Compass Travel – which features a customisable itinerary and detailed information about attractions and experiences at the touch of a button – and Scenic’s Tailormade GPS device (on European cruises), which allows guests to hone their on-board and onshore activities to their interests.
Getting under the skin of a place and broadening your horizons isn’t only for the solo adventure traveller – tour guests now want an authentic and offthe-beaten-path experience too.
“From a destination perspective, we’ve noticed more interest in the more remote and less crowded routes in iconic destinations,” says World Expeditions CEO, Sue Badyari. “Trekkers are choosing the Indian Himalaya or a more remote trek in Nepal over the often visited trails in the Everest or Annapurna regions.”
This craving for immersive, authentic experiences has been heard by Avalon Waterways, which has upped the ante with an offering of more adventurous and personalised river cruises for 2018, including a new eight-day Active Discovery on the Rhine, which focuses on off-thebeaten-path gems.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
While the old stalwarts are still there, the new destination on next year’s tour hit-list includes a few surprises.
On The Go Tours is seeing huge inquiries and bookings for Egypt in 2018, partly due to the scheduled opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum. “It will contain more than 100,000 artefacts covering 3000 years of Egyptian history,” says On The Go Tours general manager, Natalie James. “This will make it the largest archaeological museum in the world.”
The popularity of Travelmarvel’s 2017 Egypt departure has led the tour operator to add Jordan to next year’s itinerary to create a 16-day tour, Treasures of Egypt & The Nile with Hidden Jordan.
The Jordan leg visits UNESCO world heritage-listed wonder, Petra, and the Dead Sea.
Another blip on the 2018 radar is Sri Lanka – a destination that will become infinitely more accessible with the launch of direct flights from Melbourne to Colombo with Sri Lankan Airlines last month.
In Asia, Japan continues to be hugely popular.
“It’s going to become even bigger with greater airline capacity signalling significant growth,” says Tom Walley, Flight Centre head of leisure travel . “And Scandinavia is another of next year’s hottest destinations.”
Trafalgar managing director Matthew Cameron-Smith agrees: “Scandinavia was a sellout destination for us this year.”
In 2018, the expert predicts that travellers will be setting their sights on a Spanish sojourn. “Year-on-year Spain continues to be one of our topselling destinations. Interest in Portugal is rapidly rising, the combination of these two countries will be an unbeatable pairing.”
Closer to home, AAT Kings sees Victoria as a standout state for domestic tourism and, across the Ditch, Princess Cruises is rolling out 50 new shore excursions in the next 12 months to cater to demand.
“Australian tourism accounts for more than 50 per cent of international cruise arrivals in NZ,” says Stuart Allison, Princess Cruises vice president Australia and New Zealand.
Sustainability is becoming more of a focus for tour operators as a response to consumers seeking out ecofriendly travel options.
Next year, Peregrine Adventures has banned all single-use plastics such as straws, cups and water bottles on board its cruises, while Busabout has just launched its most environmentally friendly fleet of “green coaches”.
Trafalgar is partnering with notfor-profit organisation One Tree Planted from April 2018, committing to plant a tree for every guest that opts to get their itinerary updates online rather than printed.
Walking and cycling tours are becoming even bigger business in 2018. “We’ve seen a 20 per cent yearon-year increase in bookings across our walking trips,” says Caitlin Ryan, Butterfield & Robinson sales manager.
“Walking trip bookings from 2010 to 2016 have shot up
188 per cent!”
As a result, Butterfield & Robinson is launching three new walking trips for 2018 in Basque Country, Holland and the Cotswolds.
One factor behind the rise of cycling holidays is the electric bike takeover. These E-bikes are predicted to revolutionise the active travel industry in the next decade.
“It has exploded in Europe in recent years,” says UTracks general manager Kate Baker. “Sales on the continent are more than doubling and they’re reported to increase by 54.7 per cent over the next nine years.”
UTracks will offer electric bikes on 80 per cent of its cycling itineraries in 2018, while World Expeditions is expanding the use of E-bikes on all Vietnam trips next year.
There are new kids on the block when it comes to global roaming. And they want to do things differently. It could be sledding in Scandinavia, exploring Kyoto, Japan, in a small group, picking tea in Sri Lanka or photographing old storehouses in Trondheim, Norway. Travel firms are listening and tailoring adventures to suit.