Classic Vacations President David Hu says the company is seeing increasing frequency of clients asking for more unique experiences, a substantial amount of multigenerational travel and those seeking long-haul or off-the-beaten-path destinations. The tour operator is also fresh off its launch into the mainland United States.
What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
Although not new, we are seeing increasing frequency of our clients asking for more unique experiences, a substantial amount of multigenerational travel, those seeking long-haul or off-the-beaten-path destinations. We’re seeing people take to their interest and passion and incorporating that into travel, whether it be food focus travel or culture travel — that aspect that piques their interest is now woven into the itinerary. We’re seeing an increase in solo travelers as well as an increase in group social travel. Another aspect that is interesting is that people, more than ever, want the familiarity of home, but exotic places. For example, clients will want the same access to health-centric foods, but in whatever destination they are in.
How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
There are so many trends that are happening as I mentioned above that it is difficult to serve all segments. Additionally the development and launch cycle of products sometimes take long to gestate. So ultimately, our goal is to ensure that the products that our land partners have developed are put on the shelf as soon as they are ready. For example, we want to ensure that as hotels develop new dining or culture programs, we’re able to market as soon as possible. Additionally, we know we’re never going to capture all the markets, so the goal is to simply offer as much land inventory as we can so the clients can self-select based on their interests. With the usage of parent company hotel inventory (Expedia Affiliate Networks), we now have expanded our hotel inventory tenfold.
What new destinations have you introduced this year? What was the reason?
We recently launched mainland USA this year with key markets such as high-in-demand cities (NYC, Seattle, Boston) and also resort destinations (Miami, Southern California) and bucket-list experiences such as Lodge at Blue Sky (Luxury Ranch) and California Wine Country combined with product to enhance these experiences (Wine Train). We have seen an increased desire to have local getaways and not necessarily long-haul vacations. We continue to add more products into our Asia portfolio with well-defined itineraries beyond the major cities (10-day itinerary of golden triangle in Thailand, etc). Our Asia product has been successful mainly in gateway cities; we wanted to extend our portfolio to penetrate deeper into the demand. In addition, we intend to enter the Japan market sometime later this year with a select list of itineraries and preferred hotels / excursions. In Europe, we continue to add more products. Specifically, we are expanding into Portugal. The demand for Portugal continues to rise as it becomes a bit of safe haven from political turmoil, while being relatively inexpensive (when compared to other European destinations).
Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
The newest offering that will be available across many of our destinations is the addition of alternative accommodations inventory from our sister company, VRBO. In the coming month, we will allow travel advisors to access that inventory and offer it to their clients. We have found that many of our clients are losing clientele simply because they do not have access to that inventory. We are helping to solve that problem by providing access.
What are some of the challenges on the horizon for tourism in general?
Sustainability is one of the key issues I see recurring. With the burgeoning traveling class, we’re seeing many of the destinations that we sell become too popular. Hence the ability to keep a destination true to its local flavor while serving this demand is becoming more of a challenge. This is part of the reason I suspect that travelers are constantly seeking more off-the-beaten-path destinations.