Claire Ross, head of Kuoni Specialists, reveals the detail that can go into personalising escorted group tours

The spotlight on group touring holidays in the UK market over the last 18 months has helped highlight how the touring market is evolving, with re-vitalised collections driving increased demand and the niche becoming mainstream. With this innovation, the touring market is attracting a more independently-minded customer, led by the desire to personalise their experience.

In the past the idea of customisation wouldn’t have sat easily alongside the idea of a tour. If anything, touring was seen as inflexible or regimented in a potential customer’s mind. This simply isn’t the case any longer. Now a customer can reap the benefits of travelling on a group tour while still making their individual mark on their holiday.

Our mission is to ensure our customers have the very best experience when they visit a destination. By listening to a customer, it’s possible to organise a touring holiday that extends way beyond ticking off sights from a list.

Here at Kuoni, we design group tours that can be tailored into unique holidays. This could be a small touch like selecting a preferred airline, or extending time away on holiday beyond the tour. Independent extensions have long been a popular addition to our touring holidays and are often as simple as relaxing on a beach at the end of a busy sightseeing itinerary.

Increasingly though, we are seeing Kuoni customers combining two or more small group itineraries together to build their own personal epic adventure. As customers tend to plan earlier, have longer to spend away, and want something more from their touring holidays, this approach has grown in popularity. And with the guarantee that all of our departures will operate, there really are no obstacles when planning an epic touring adventure.

Japan is a hugely popular destination across the touring market, but interestingly for us it is often paired with a Korea or China itinerary to create a more unusual holiday experience that offers a complementary, yet often contrasting, experience. Latin America and Indochina also lend themselves well to this approach – customers can pick and choose countries to create bespoke group touring that matches their own interests.

The opportunity for personalisation doesn’t end with the itinerary itself. A few years ago, we took the decision to focus only on small group tours because it gives us the opportunity to provide a more personal, flexible experience that wouldn’t always be possible as part of a larger group.

Travelling as part of a small group is all about the people and the interactions you have along the way. It’s talking to your guide and finding out what it’s like to live in the country and the nuances of different cultures. Evenings are spent reflecting over experiences from the day with rest of your group and your local leader can often shape the focus of the next day’s sightseeing, leaving you with the feeling of ‘we are the lucky few travellers to have experienced that’.

Personalisation is always in the detail. It’s about getting to know our customers and building an itinerary that ensures they go away feeling like they have really got to know a destination. This is why we travel after all.