The people you want to travel with
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