China: First Impressions

For many travelers considering a trip to China, the country's immensity can be downright intimidating. Therefore, an escorted tour can be a wise choice for your clients—especially first-time visitors to China. Itineraries and styles run the gamut, so you can match your clients to a trip that will meet their interests in a manner they'll find appealing.

"Tour operators who package tours make sure to include the most significant and 'must-see' features and design a comprehensive itinerary at a logical pace," says Owen Imaizumi, CTC, director of product development-Asia for Pleasant Holidays. He adds that repeat travelers can customize their itineraries to spend more time at specific places of interest—or include time in areas that are off the beaten track.  Guilin is featured in many escorted tours offered by wholesalers.

"Considering how big and diverse China is, it makes sense to join a fully escorted tour," says Nadia Billia LeBon, director of special programs for Mountain Travel Sobek. "The guide will be able to provide interpretation for culture and natural history, as well as assist with the logistics of transfers, flight and hotel check-in."

Culture, History & Nature

Max Aly, director of sales at SITA World Tours, says people making their first visit to China reap the benefit of choosing a packaged program that combines cultural, historical and natural highlights. "A packaged tour combines all the right elements and takes the stress out of planning, and also the linguistic difficulties that independent travelers are likely to encounter," Aly says.

Jerre Fuqua, president of Travcoa, concurs. "Any place you go where customs, language and culture are different, you can do it alone, but you miss so many of the wonderful things that someone who lives there is familiar with." The Forbidden City is one of the sights you should try to include in the itinerary of any first-time visitor to China.

Some clients, of course, tend more toward the independent end of the scale. For these travelers, you can seek out itineraries that depart with a small group size or work up an independent itinerary, perhaps with an operator that offers such travel as an option.

When gauging what travel itineraries match your clients' needs, Imaizumi suggests you use an adventure scale. If your client is daring enough, encourage them to travel to more organic or undiscovered locations, he says.

"We're not necessarily talking about soft or hard adventure," he explains, "but the level of acceptance to features or characteristics of a destination." The more remote the area, he continues, the less developed the accommodations, attractions and infrastructure may be.

Thus, he says, visitors weighing travel to such destinations need to have a sense of adventure, a certain level of tolerance for unfamiliar circumstances, and desire to explore.