Janet Parton, sales director, Cosmos.

I was recently asked what I did for a living. I said that I worked for a Touring holiday company and the reaction was “I don’t think I’d like to do one of those. Imagine being on a bus all day with a load of old people”. I wasn’t surprised by this, I often hear it and I see it as a challenge to convert them to my way of thinking and explain why touring holidays are the perfect holiday.

As touring suppliers, we are individually and collectively changing the mindset of many future customers, but there is still a big job to do.  As travel agents, I don’t underestimate the challenge that you face when you try to introduce a tour to a potential customer. The key is in the find out stage, that exploration time before you even start tapping on the keyboard. The open questions of: “What do you like to do, what destinations appeal, what is important to you on a holiday” etc. Once you have the answers you can then match your customers to a touring holiday. Here’s my top 5 benefits:

Hassle free travel

Guests hand over all control and responsibility to their expert tour directors and drivers. No need to worry about getting from the airport to the hotel, driving on the wrong side of the road or lugging heavy bags around. Coaches are comfortable; USB points, individual air conditioning, toilets and refreshments. They also help the environment – each coach keeps on average 20 cars off the road.

Immersion and knowledge

Who doesn’t want to know more about the destination they are in? Guests on a tour will come away more knowledgeable and educated then they would if they travelled independently. Tour guides are full of knowledge – bringing destinations to life through historical facts and information. More Tour Operators are providing opportunities for guests to interact with the locals. At Cosmos, through our Globus tours, we offer excursions called Local Favourites. These are excursions with local people in mind. It could be dinner with a local family in their home, or doing the tango with the locals in Argentina. Guides can give tips on the best local restaurant, the best bar – things that you may not find by looking on Trip Advisor.

Free time and flexibility

Many people are put off by a tour because they think it is regimented and there is no free time. When you are responsible for a coach full of people of course you need to work to timelines, but suppliers are finding the right balance in offering plenty of free time. Cosmos offer optional excursions where guests can chose what they want to do/ see, or they can simply explore on their own. Many tours have consecutive nights in the destination, so plenty of time for exploration and relaxation.

Friends and companionship

Touring holidays are a sociable experience. Guests are travelling with likeminded people. They are travelling on a coach together, may often have meals together, so whilst guests can chose to stay out of the mix if they really want too, they would be missing a big part of the experience.

Must see sights

There are certain destinations where attractions can have limited space and so booking early is really important. At Cosmos we have recently launched our North America programme for 2020. In the last few years we have seen a surge of bookings to the US National Parks. Entrance to the parks is limited, so booking early does pay off. There are lots of key experiences that sell out quickly such as the Calgary Stampede, Machu Picchu and many more. Space is limited, so don’t let your customers be disappointed.

Touring companies are geared up to offer holidays that are as bespoke as the individuals buying them. It’s important to understand your customers’ requirements and the differences between the touring suppliers.

ATAS can help. I recommend using the ATAS training modules to swat up on each of the touring companies and what they offer. Touring holidays don’t have to be regimented. They offer free time, optional excursions, pre and post extensions  –  all encompassed in a holiday that offers more sightseeing, in depth knowledge, local immersion than you would ever get by trying to put together on your own. So next time you’re finding out your customers holiday requirements remember the benefits of a tour…. Good Luck!