Forward bookings are up and Egypt, in particular, has rebounded spectacularly, says Jon Grutzner, president of Insight Vacations. Next year look for five new immersive experiences in the U.S. and Canada, plus even more in store for Europe.
What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
There has been more demand for exotic destinations this year and into 2020. Our forward sales for 2020 are way up, and Egypt has had a spectacular rebound. Immersive and experiential travel continues to be very important and having flexibility while traveling is also becoming more popular. One of our Insight Experiences could be meeting a farmer in the Arctic Circle or dining in the home of a local in Sarajevo.
How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
Yes, we have added significant capacity to meet this demand with longer booking windows. For flexible travel, we offer a new “Insight Choice” enabling guests to choose between two included Insight Experiences on days when they are given an Insight Choice.
What new destinations have you introduced this year?
We have a new itinerary called Desert Escapes of California and Arizona for Insight’s 2020 USA & Canada brochure. This itinerary is special because it combines Hollywood glamour, National Parks, and Southwestern history and cuisine. There are immersive experiences on this itinerary, such as going on a mid-century architecture tour in Palm Springs led by a history and architectural expert, and in Tucson, meeting with astronomers who present a tour of the universe through a mobile observatory.
Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
For 2020, we have five new, immersive Insight Experiences for USA & Canada, such as an Inuit ice cream demonstration in Anchorage, Alaska and having exclusive access to the Crazy Horse Memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota. Insight Vacations 2020 Europe & Britain preview brochure offers a collection of 2020 journeys that can be booked at 2019 prices. They all include unique Insight Experiences, authentic dining, hand-picked hotels and are accompanied by our highly skilled travel directors. We’ll introduce a number of exciting innovations when we launch our full Europe portfolio in September.
What are some of the challenges on the horizon for tourism in general?
Overtourism is a big challenge for some of the destinations, but we strongly believe that travel and guided vacations in general can be a force for good and can be part of the solution for these challenges. Not only do we make a point of also supporting these destinations in the quiet season, we also visit and support many off-the-beaten-track and lesser-known destinations on our Country Roads itineraries. As a founding member of The Travel Corporation’s TreadRight foundation we have supported over 50 sustainable tourism projects across the globe. We want to #MakeTravelMatter and tread as lightly as possible in the places we visit. Insight Vacations has committed to eliminating all non-essential Single Use Plastics from all its operations by 2022. In 2019, we’ve taken the step to stop the sale of single-use plastic bottles on our coaches, eliminated single-use plastic nametags and luggage tags. We estimate this will eliminate about five tons of plastic waste in the next five years. Additionally, our coaches are very energy-efficient and coach travel has been proven to reduce congestion and create less pollution than any other form of transport.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
We also want to take our guests on trips that have minimal environmental impact and positively benefit local communities and wildlife in the destinations they visit. Thanks to our efforts with our TreadRight Foundation and its +50 initiatives, guests are traveling sustainably when they travel with us. A selection of Insight trips feature TreadRight experiences and speak to our collective commitment to encourage the cultures, traditions and arts of the communities we visit — such as visiting the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative in Jordan and the Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti in Italy.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2019/20?
Insight Vacations offers agent training which allows advisors to build a much deeper knowledge about The Art of Traveling in Style. We also created opportunities for advisors to develop small and intimate group business in the premium space as well as align closer with our partners on marketing campaigns to help them source more high value guests.