Collette President Jaclyn Leibl-Cote says that the tour operator is adding more flexibility on its tours as customers increasingly demand personalization and authentic experiences. It also just added Russia, the Azores and the Baltics.
What are some of the destinations you’d like to go into?
We’re always on the lookout for the next “Iceland” or “Portugal” and we keep ourselves very much engrained in what’s currently trending, but we’re also mindful of trying to get ahead and be the first to market in some of the areas where people haven’t even realized they want to travel.
What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
We know that our customers really want personalization and authentic experiences, so our product designers are out on the road more than 100 days a year, seeking out the unique hotels and off-the-beaten-path sights that many just aren’t able to coordinate on their own.
How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
We’ve added more flexibility on tours to give guests the level of personalization that they are looking for. Every traveler is different, so we have created many ways for guests to customize their tour to make it their own. By including more iconic must-sees and cultural inclusions ... guests get that authentic experience they are seeking.
What new destinations have you introduced this year? What was the reason?
Some of our newest destinations are Russia, the Azores and the Baltics. Our Imperial Russia tour allows guests to experience the distinctive allure and history of the world’s largest country. Guests will explore the streets of St. Petersburg in a vintage Soviet car, become acquainted with the country’s epicurean roots on an immersive food tour, and discover the energy, surprises and discoveries around every corner. The Azores is extremely underrated, and is such a secret! It’s been dubbed the “Hawaii of Europe” and allows guests to fully immerse in the culture and nature. This tour is an untouched paradise where guests explore thermal pools, lush craters, local farms and volcanic cuisine. Travelers truly delve into the culture of Portuguese island life. On our new Baltics tour, guests can discover a melting pot of cultures — a Germanized mindset, intermingling Polish roots, a Finnish way of life and a bit of Russian influence. Find eccentric murals in Lithuania, Gothic towers in Latvia, storybook streets in Estonia and extravagant palaces in Russia.
Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
A few of our new tours are — Croatia & Its Islands Small Ship Cruising on the Adriatic Coast; Spain & Morocco; Greenland & Iceland: A NordicInspired Voyage; India’s Treasures; and Painted Canyons of the West, featuring Utah’s five National Parks. There is a lot of excitement about the new Croatia & Its Islands tour. Cruise the Adriatic on a small ship, experiencing the sparkling beauty and cascading waterfalls of the sea. From medieval architecture to ethereal waterfalls, enjoy a memorable seven-night cruise discovering the rich history of Croatia. Collette is the only tour operator to overnight in Sibenik, allowing for the best access to Krka National Park and its waterfalls.
What are some of the challenges on the horizon for tourism in general?
The lack of stability and control over the unknown is what can be the most challenging. We are constantly planning many years in advance but need to be mindful of situations changing throughout the world at any given time and being nimble enough to make adjustments when faced with those challenges.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
As we approach 2020, ticket sales for the Oberammergau Passion Play are really heating up. This is a once in a decade event, and we don’t want your clients to miss out on it.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2019/20?
As an organization, we are focused on providing our agents with the tools and resources that enable them to sell, this includes a new learning strategy as well as a loyalty strategy program to keep their clients traveling. We recently introduced the new Travel Agent Network on Facebook, a private group designed to give agents an opportunity to interact with one another and be made aware of the latest sales and offers for their clients.