Comment: Whatever you sell, do it well, offer value, and listen

Our loyal customers have three simple rules for all travel firms, says Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos Tours & Cruises

Over the last month or so I have been immersing myself in a new business and a new part of the travel industry, learning loads along the way.

One of the revelations for me has been the escorted touring market – the size of it, the range of options on offer and the broad appeal across different styles of tours. I had some involvement in touring many years ago with the Jetsave brand, but the product has moved on somewhat and the range offered by Cosmos Tours & Cruises has even got me planning on booking something for myself and family soon.

Looking at the places you can visit, the experiences you can have and value for money of doing all of this, has excited me no end.

I am also looking at how we can continue to adapt our offering to suit people who wouldn’t usually consider an escorted tour, as well as delight our core customer base in the future.

Loyal customers

We have a number of customer sessions lined up where we are going to talk to our existing clients and understand what they love about the product, what they would like us to improve and how we can continue to appeal to them in the future. I’ve recently done the first of these sessions, meeting customers who have travelled with us frequently (one couple and one single lady who had travelled with us 45 times each) and they shared some very simple messages – do it well, keep offering good value, keep listening to us. Oh, and it’s not just about price, but quality and value for money.

Agents’ views count

I am also starting discussions with key travel agents to sound out their views along the same lines.

The overwhelming feedback from agents so far has been ‘Why you? What’s unique and different about your brands?’

This isn’t just with us, but relevant to all travel companies: whether you’re an agent or a tour operator, your customers need to be clear on what you offer that is unique.

Of equal importance to our customers and trade partners is the team in our Bromley office. They have some great ideas, huge passion and belief in the brand and product, and the ability to take the escorted touring offering into a new realm.

New tours and products

We are developing products and options to broaden appeal and have some exciting new itineraries. These include a special 40th-anniversary memorial departure celebrating the life of Elvis and seeking out India’s tigers in Ranthambore, emulating the iconic journey of the classic film The Darjeeling Limited with luxury train journeys.

I am rethinking my views on escorted touring holidays and encourage you to do the same. And watch this space as we look to add elements to help you encourage even more people to take an escorted tour in the future.

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