For the past six years, Disney's family tour operator, Adventures by Disney, has been making exotic locations "part of our world." At a press conference held today, Travel Agent got the scoop on how the fairly new company is working to expand its already widely successful offerings in 2012.
New in 2012
Heather Killingbeck, director of program development and operations for Adventures by Disney (ABD) told members of the media that the company would be offering brand new itineraries in 2012, including ones to Greece and Northern France, as well as an additional itinerary in Ecuador. The new itineraries will be made available for sale as of Tuesday, August 30.
"Our Greece itinerary includes all of the iconic sites in Athens and Delphi, and then a lot of fun in the sun in the islands," says Killingbeck. "The tour will be set to a backdrop of music, dance and Mediterranean cuisine." Some of the highlights include a private sail boat from Santorini across the Caldera, a volcano walk, an alfresco meal in a tiny fishing village and a lesson on making goat cheese from a bonafide shepherd. "On this trip parents can feel good about hitting those education check marks, but can also relax and get into the Mediterranean lifestyle." This adventure will be a nine-night, 10-day experience.
The Northern France itinerary will tell three distinct stories: one of patriots, one of artists and one of castles. This seven-night, eight-day adventure takes families to the countryside of Northern France, where they will visit the World War II beaches in Normandy, as well as enjoy the bucolic countryside. Other highlights include Mont Saint-Michel for a private guided experience. For an artistic experience, tours visit Monet's Giverny gardens where Junior Adventurers can partake in a sketch activity. "This really allows travelers to get into the mindset of Monet. We also have a lunch that includes a menu of what he used to eat when he lived there," says Killingbeck. The adventure continues with the exploration of castles in the Loire Valley. The whole experience is capped off with a trip to Paris, where travelers will be treated to a private dinner in a hidden, private chamber in the Louvre.
ABD launched an Egypt itinerary last year, and will continue to run it in 2012. The Pyramids, Pharaohs and Ancient Treasures itinerary runs for eight nights and nine days, bringing travelers up close and personal with the pyramids, as well as offering them a three-night cruise on the Nile. "We cap this with two nights at Sharm-el-Sheikh on the Red Sea," says Killingbeck. "There are a lot of [other operators] who offer this as an optional extension. But we know there is no better way to end an experience that is rich in culture and history than with fun in the sun. We include this stop in the core program." Guests will still be with their guides during this part of the program, which enhances the ease and comfort of the experience.
We were told that ABD tossed around the idea of adding New Zealand to the Australia and South Pacific journey, but because of New Zealand's southern hemisphere location, it did not prove to be a logical addition, since June, July and August, ABD's high season, is the dead of winter way down south. Instead, ABD has added Tazmania, an island on the Southeast coast of Australia, to the itinerary. This offers the same amount of adventure that New Zealand does, without the incompatibility of the season. Some adventure options include ziplining and kayaking, counterbalanced with wine tasting and viewings of actual Tazmanian Devils. The updated itinerary now runs 11 nights and 12 days.
ABD has had a very successful program in Ecuador for a number of years, that has included four nights on the mainland near Quito and a four-night cruise in the Galapagos. Due to customer demand, ABD has added an additional itinerary in Ecuador that is centered solely around the Galapagos. This new six-night cruise is bookended with a pre- and post-night in Quito.
Lastly, ABD has enhanced its Nights & Lights itinerary in London and Paris. "We started examining our itinerary with that of the competition," says Killingbeck. "Ours was missing an experience out in the countryside outside London." As a result, the company has added two nights outside of Windsor in Surrey, where guests will visit Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. The Paris portion of the program differs from the Northern France Paris stop in that travelers visit Versailles and Notre Dame. The Nights & Lights itinerary is eight nights and nine days.
In total, ABD has 24 different itineraries in its entire portfolio.
Note: ABD will not be offering its Gateway product anymore. The only Signature product they will have in 2012 will be the Italy trip.
With respect to the rest of the Disney family, a six-year-old company is still relatively new. ABD relies on travel agents to act as advocates for the company and push the products on the right travelers.
"The trade is so important to us," says Craig Parsons, vice president, national accounts and travel agency sales, Disney Worldwide Sales & Travel Operations, Disney Destinations. "We need to emphasize training these folks. To be able to properly train agents, especially in this type of detail, is a daunting task. Unlike many of our industry competitors who are reducing sales teams in their channels, we are increasing. We are full geared up to support ABD to its fullest."
Agents can utilize a variety of marketing tactics to inform and educate their clients. DisneyTravelAgents.com is their best resource.
This year, ABD launched a series of Guide Events, which they will continue to hold in 2012. This year the company held four at the end of July throughout the country, bringing 60 to 100 agents to each event, where the trips were brought to life. Agents were able to meet the actual guides who participate on the tours (two guides to every trip).
Finally, ABD will be launching Adventure Insiders, a network family for returning clients. "What this means is that if you have traveled with ABD before, you will be communicated to in a way so that you get information in advance of the general public," says Josh D'Amaro, vice president, Adventure by Disney.
Return customers will be treated with surprises now and again, for example, special gift boxes sent home with fun things for the family. "We want to make sure we pay attention to past guests and keep them happy and talking about ABD."