As tour operators prepare for 2014, companies are launching new tours to up-and-coming destinations, and some classic European countries are getting new options as well. Jennifer Halboth, director of channel marketing for the Globus family of brands, told Travel Agent that Globus’ companies were taking initiatives to balance the old favorites and the new destinations.
“Italy has been #1 with us for a long time,” Halboth said--but added that the gap between the nation and Britain/Ireland has been steadily closing over the last few years. To narrow the gap, and combat the perception that Italy is an expensive destination, Globus launched an Italian Vista tour that goes to off-the-beaten-track destinations (including Orvieto, Assisi, Padua and Verona) along the peninsula to keep the costs down to less than $200 per day. Visits to the major cities include tours of the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, St. Francis’ Basilica, Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square. Local activities include tasting pastries in a traditional pasticceria in Orvieto, taking a boat ride to Bellagio and a risotto dinner in Milan.
The company has estimated that the tour costs approximately 25 percent less than comparable Italy vacations. Globus is also focusing on Italy as a major part of its marketing initiatives. “It’s on the cover of our brochure and in our mailers,” she said. “We made Italy a highlight--it’s so important to anyone who sells Europe.”
The results, Halboth said, have been decidedly positive: Globus’ Italy tours are up more than 50 percent, and up more than 40 percent across the family of brands. “With a major tour operator with many tried-and-true tours, when we do something new, it rarely catches fire immediately. It usually takes two years,” she noted. “This has been the most successful launch of a tour in a decade.”
Ireland tours are also increasingly popular, Halboth said. “Everything can be cyclical. Last year, we were worried that London would suffer from an Olympic hangover. We couldn’t afford for that to happen, so last year, we focused on Britain.” Tours to the UK and Ireland finished 2013 up 60 percent up across all Globus brands. “And we haven’t hit the main booking period yet,” Halboth added, noting that most tours to Britain are booked in January and February.
For 2014, Globus is introducing some new tours, including one to Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. Another new 12-day option goes from Lisbon across northern Spain to Barcelona. “We’re trying to introduce some off-the-beaten path destinations,” Halboth explained. “People come to touring now a bit more well-traveled than they were 20 years ago...and they want to see something new.” Eastern Europe is increasingly popular, she noted.
In addition, Halboth said that people are booking their tours further out as overall confidence increases. “People were waiting and booking their Italy tours in September,” she noted, “and then they realized that they should have booked earlier. If people have their heart set on a destination, they’re starting to book further out.” Smaller groups and those looking for independent tours are still booking last-minute, she added, especially as the operator adds departures. For example, Monograms now offers daily departures to London, so small groups and families can decide to try a quick UK getaway at the last minute.