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Custom-Made Vacations 101October 1, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Home-Based Travel Agent
By breaking out of the box, you can help your clients create their own unique adventures
With more and more travelers demanding authentic experiences on vacation and more and more tour operators increasing the amount of leisure time on escorted tours, it's now easier than ever to create a fully customized tour for a client, or simply set up something special on a packaged tour. Doing such a thing will not only increase the value of the sale, but will practically ensure that the client gives you repeat business.
For fully customizable tours, you can start out by approaching any wholesaler. Avanti Destinations (www.avantidestinations.com) specializes in bookings to Europe and Latin America, providing city packages, rail tours, villa and manor house access, culinary programs and walking and biking tours. The company pays agents a 10 percent commission, plus an additional commission based on consortium participation and volume.
New for this year, Avanti is offering a La Rioja wine package in Spain, which is the perfect addition to any tour in Madrid or cruise that ports in Bilbao or San Sebastian. The package includes a three-night hotel stay complete with taxes and fees, two lunches with wine cellar visits, a trip to the Museum of Wine and Culture in La Rioja, daily breakfast and a four-day manual car rental. Avanti is able to extend a client's stay if they so wish. Prices start at $769 per person and agents can contact Cecilia Dove with questions about any Europe package at 503-295-1100, ext. 4462 or via e-mail at [email protected].
Avanti offers a more extended stay in Latin America with its tour, "The Andean Path: A Cultural Journey." The eight-day trip provides some structure but also ample time for guests to relax or venture out on their own, based on their preference.
Starting in Lima, Peru, the trip takes clients to Cuzco, where they will explore ancient palaces and churches, as well as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, before heading to Machu Picchu. The trip ends at Lake Titicaca. Priced at $2,159 per person, based on double occupancy, the trip, which is available through November, includes ground and air transfers to and from Lima, seven nights of accommodations, guided excursions and some meals. Avanti's Latin America specialist is Leigh Young. She can be reached at 503-295-1100, ext. 4432 or via e-mail at [email protected].
For truly adventurous clients, suggest a customized trip with Nomadic Expeditions (www.nomadicexpeditions.com), which specializes in Mongolia. With Nomadic Expeditions, clients can set up such excursions such as digging for dinosaur fossils with paleontologists in the Gobi Desert, kayaking the waters of Lake Hovsgol and spending the night in felt tents at the Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi-Altai Mountains. Agents can put together what their clients—either individuals or groups— want, from a helicopter ride for VIPs to educational trips for university groups. Such customizable trips start at $200 per person, per day. Nomadic Expeditions pays a commission of 10 percent, and agents can contact any reservations agent at 800-998-6634 to set up a trip.
For your high-end clients, a go-to source for customized trips should be Travcoa (www.travcoa.com). Since the 1990s, Travcoa has offered the resources of its Custom Journey Planners, but only recently has demand surged for such services. Using Travcoa's Custom Journey Planners, agents and their VIP clients can create every detail of their itineraries, from unique cultural encounters to luxury accommodations. What's more, Travcoa provides a travel director on the tour who is at the client's disposal.
Generally, Custom Journey Planners need nine to 12 months advance notice of a desired departure date. Within a few days, Travcoa's Custom Journey Concierge creates a sample itinerary and prepares an estimated cost.
Following approval and a planning fee payment of $250 to $500—which is credited toward the trip when booked—Custom Journey Planners begin working on the itinerary and pricing, working closely with travel agents and their guests during the process to present a tailor-made itinerary and accurate final pricing.
Requirements of booking such a trip are a minimum of six nights in deluxe accommodations, and trips include private transportation and local guides. In addition to paying 10 percent commission, Travcoa gives agents the option of a net price that can be marked up and then presented to the client. To speak with a Custom Journey Planner, agents can call 800-992-2008, ext. 266.