Understanding the diversity of product and challenging outdated misconceptions are key, Travel Weekly Webcast hears
A panel of experts, made up of Ben Ittensohn, head of global sales at Explore, Sarah Weetman, head of trade sales for Travelsphere and Just You, and Rob Kenton, managing director of Triangle Travel, joined the first in a series of agent-focused webcasts offering practical advice and training on how to sell specialist sectors of travel.
Touring and adventure travel was among the fastest-growing area of the industry prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Weetman said: “The reason why touring is growing is because everybody is so busy in life and holidays become so precious. We want to go away and get more out of a holiday and by having somebody arrange those holidays for you, you don’t have to worry about anything – you’ve got your tour manager there and a local guide. They can take you off the beaten track and really get to see those little gems that perhaps you wouldn’t have seen if you just went independently.”
Kenton said awareness of guided touring was relatively low among clients, but that destination-led enquiries to places including southeast Asia, South America or Europe could lead to successful tour bookings.
He said: “There’s a very small [minority] of our clients who actually come in and say I want a guided tour. It’s normally driven by destination, which is the first question. And then when you start to talk in more detail and you present a guided tour or adventure tour to them and they start to understand it more in detail, then they come round to the idea.
“There’s such wide, diverse product out there. It’s important that you listen to the client with three, four or five questions and match them to the right product, and then you’re off and running.”
Understanding what an adventure traveller might look like is key, according to Ittensohn. He said: “With adventure, a lot of people think that’s zip-lining through the jungle or you need to have run a marathon to do one of our walking trips, but one of our most popular trips in Europe is walking the Amalfi Coast where you’re actually staying in one agriturismo overhanging the cliffs of Amalfi. You’re doing leisurely walks during the day and back at night-time, eating some beautiful Italian food and swirling great glasses of chianti, and sharing those experiences you’ve had during the day.
“It could be anything from that to a dhoni cruise in the Maldives for seven days, or it could be walking Kilimanjaro. The challenge for agents is understanding this breadth of product – there are those whistle-stop tours, but there are softer adventure tours and more active tours. The challenge for agents is knowing all the product on offer.”
When asked about touring in the aftermath of the pandemic, Ittensohn said: “In my opinion, small groups and remote travel will be really attractive post-coronavirus. I believe it’ll be among the first to recover given that customers are generally more adventurous, the trips are more outdoors and immersed in culture, and maybe a bit more active, and they visit places that are a little bit more off the beaten track and won’t trigger the fears that more crowded places might.”
Weetman added: “The tour manager will be key to provide that extra piece of reassurance that the customer knows they’ll be looked after and cared for all the way from the start to the end of a holiday. Tour managers will play even more of a key role in tours than they ever have done before.”
For more on the sector, read our guide to how to sell touring and adventure holidays.