The peo­ple you want to travel with

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Choos­ing a tour oper­a­tor for your dream get­away, hon­ey­moon or multi-gen­er­a­tional fam­ily hol­i­day, com­plete with hand-picked ex­cur­sions and ad­ven­tures, can make or break a trip. Turquoise makes this task easy.

Mov­ing from third place last year to first this year, the lux­ury bou­tique oper­a­tor wowed with its first-hand knowl­edge of se­cret coves and beaches, hid­den vine­yards and un­usual ex­pe­ri­ences.

This small, fam­ily-owned com­pany nur­tures per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with clients. Not many op­er­a­tors en­cour­age cus­tomers to call the founders di­rect if they have ques­tions or are look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion. Turquoise’s re­li­a­bil­ity, at­ten­tion to de­tail and per­sonal touch have made it a leader in long-haul hol­i­days and hon­ey­moons to des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing the Mal­dives and Mau­ri­tius.

Trail­find­ers, which has re­ceived top marks from Tele­graph Travel through­out the years, comes sec­ond and con­tin­ues to im­press with its re­as­sur­ing ser­vice and re­li­a­bil­ity. The com­pany’s ViewTrail mo­bile phone app al­lows clients to view travel plans and live flight de­tails and even has GPS track­ing. The com­pany con­sid­ers trav­ellers’ needs be­fore the trip even starts, of­fer­ing add-on ser­vices such as vac­ci­na­tion, visas and in­sur­ance cover.

Aud­ley, the win­ner both in 2017 and the pre­vi­ous year, scored highly for ser­vice. The tai­lor-made spe­cial­ist is best known for long-haul des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing the US, Canada, China, Aus­tralia and New Zealand but is also now fo­cus­ing closer to home, hav­ing in­tro­duced itin­er­ar­ies to Italy, its first short-haul des­ti­na­tion, this Novem­ber. High­lights in­clude Venice, Florence and Rome. nav­i­gate on your own. Even lux­ury tai­lor-made spe­cial­ists such as Aber­crom­bie & Kent now of­fer group tours, con­firm­ing trav­ellers’ ap­petite for shared ex­pe­ri­ences led by ex­pert guides who re­ally un­der­stand a des­ti­na­tion and can bring it to life.

This year, we’ve seen in­creased book­ings to Ja­pan, Cen­tral Asia and the Mid­dle East, specif­i­cally Jor­dan and Oman, high­light­ing in­creas­ing con­fi­dence in the re­gion’s se­cu­rity. Well­ness hol­i­days are com­ing into fo­cus in re­sponse to grow­ing in­ter­est in phys­i­cal and mental health, and solo tours also con­tinue to blos­som, with more than one in six peo­ple now go­ing on hol­i­day by them­self – up from

12 per cent in 2017.

Ti­tan Travel, which wins the tro­phy as this year’s best es­corted tour oper­a­tor, is tak­ing note. The com­pany, which of­fers pre­mium trips to all seven con­ti­nents, has re­cently launched a new pro­gramme of solo tours with no sin­gle sup­ple­ments, with the first de­par­tures due in 2019. Italy, the UK and the US are Ti­tan’s best­selling des­ti­na­tions in 2018. It is a de­cid­edly gen­er­al­ist oper­a­tor, but its fo­cus on thought­fully de­signed itin­er­ar­ies and the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence – in­clud­ing com­pli­men­tary door-to-door trans­fers from any­where in the UK – means cus­tomers are sat­is­fied, happy and likely to re­book.

Fol­low­ing closely be­hind Ti­tan is arts and cul­ture spe­cial­ist Martin Ran­dall Travel. The com­pany em­ploys some of the world’s most renowned aca­demics and ex­perts to lead trips fo­cus­ing on mu­sic, ar­chi­tec­ture and the vis­ual arts.

Last but not least is last year’s win­ner, APT. Many will be more fa­mil­iar with its river cruise of­fer­ings, but its es­corted tours pro­gramme, rang­ing from food-fo­cused tours to wilder­ness ad­ven­tures, brings the same sense of lux­ury and in­sider ex­pe­ri­ence. quite a broad range of des­ti­na­tions. It started out with a few hol­i­days to Cape Town 15 years ago and has steadily ex­panded since, with an em­pha­sis on char­ac­ter­ful and tra­di­tional prop­er­ties.

Fleewin­ter “en­cour­ages clients to get off the beaten track… and to ex­plore”, and prides it­self on of­fer­ing “im­par­tial” one-to-one ad­vice. Most of its pro­gramme is long-haul, with a par­tic­u­larly strong of­fer­ing in win­ter sun des­ti­na­tions in the In­dian Ocean, the Caribbean, Africa and south-east Asia.

In sec­ond place, Aardvark Sa­faris fo­cuses on the key African sa­fari des­ti­na­tions, of­fer­ing stays in small, owner-run camps and lodges which give the best op­por­tu­ni­ties to see the an­i­mals and the bush with­out the crowds.

In third place, Llama Travel is, as you might have guessed, a South Amer­ica spe­cial­ist of­fer­ing an imag­i­na­tive pro­gramme of trips to all the key des­ti­na­tions on the con­ti­nent.

LIV­INGTHE DREAMTurquoise of­fers hid­den coves in ex­otic lo­ca­tions, top; Fleewin­ter seeks off-the-beaten-track ad­ven­tures, above

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