Bookings are coming in strong for new Central and South America programs at a number of tour companies. Abercrombie & Kent’s new offerings are doing exceptionally well, according to Senior Vice President of Product Content and Operations Richard Harris.
One such offering is actually a tweaked version of an existing program.
“We used to offer 'Wonders of Chile, Argentina and Brazil.' But 2016 is an Olympic year. So we took Brazil out of the journey and made it an extension instead,” said Harris.
He explains the reasoning.
“Wherever you have an Olympics, it tends to destroy general tourism in the destination. The sort of people who want to take a cultural journey will avoid it. We’re doing Rio de Janeiro as an extension and seeing great interest,” said Harris.
Also new for A&K is Patagonia.
“There’s lots of interest in Patagonia. We’ve been a little bit slow perhaps. But we are the leading luxury company and a little concerned about accommodations in such a raw, empty, thrilling and brutal landscape,” said Harris.
In the last year, properties such as the Singular Patagonia and Los Sauces Casa Patagonia have helped the company ready its luxury adventure.
“Patagonia: The Last Wilderness” begins in Buenos Aires, and continues to Tierra del Fuego, El Calafate, Torres del Paine National Park and Santiago.
“What’s exciting for agents and their clients is that we have an Easter Island extension.
“You fly out to the world’s most remote airport. You see the island and stay at the Hanga Roa Eco Village. Over a quarter of our guests are choosing to add the extension. You’re already all the way down there. And Easter Island is on so many adventure and luxury travel wish lists,” said Harris.
New destinations in general are on traveler -- and travel agent -- wish lists. And Avanti Destinations is responding to the demand.
New programs for 2016 include Honduras and El Salvador. Those additions give Avanti the distinction of offering all of Central America for FIT travelers.
“We expanded a couple of years ago to Nicaragua. Because of travel agent demand, we’ve added Roatan in Honduras. It’s a very nice place to vacation, especially if you combine it with Copan,” said Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti Destinations.
Forty miles off the coast, Roatan’s prime location next to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef makes it a world-class diving, snorkeling and beach destination.
In El Salvador, Avanti’s program includes volcanoes, Mayan ruins and colonial Suchitoto, as well as San Salvador.
“Obviously the Mayan culture and natural sites, such as volcanoes, are a big part of the draw. It’s interesting to watch the infrastructure develop and change. Certainly the people we’re dealing with are very passionate about what their country has to offer.
“That’s a wonderful thing when all you read is a lot of negativity,” said Dalgaard.
Big and Little Corn Islands, off of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, are also new from Avanti.
Looking ahead to the holidays, Backroads is seeing lots of interest in its Costa Rica and Panama offerings. Additionally, spokesperson Liz Einbender tells Travel Agent that new Family Breakaway Trips are on tap for Argentina’s Lake District, Peru and Patagonia. The trips are designed for a growing segment of traveler: families with older teens and twentysomethings.