Catching Up with Brendan Vacations

Nico Zenner, president of Brendan Vacations, came by Travel Agent's New York offices recently to bring us up to date on the tour operator's latest developments.

Brendan, he said, is "realigning" to focus on new options for guided vacations worldwide. Notably, the company is expanding its boutique programs: In Ireland, these journeys have a maximum capacity of 24 and guaranteed departures, so that the groups can be just a single couple (or single person) and the guide. The smaller vans can access more remote destinations, and guests can stay at castles and manors that would not be available for larger groups.

In Italy, Brendan is partnering with the Slow Food Company for tours in Umbria, Tuscany, Piedmont and Sicily. These tours will generally stay in one or two hotels during the length of the trip and then go on excursions to markets, vineyards and olive oil factories to learn about local cuisine. In France, these tours will be centered in Provence and the Loire Valley. Iceland, on the other hand, will not focus on cuisine but on adventure tourism (think glaciers). Tours in Greece will look inland and explore some hidden gems away from the popular coast and islands.

Independent tours are also being expanded, and will combine multiple cities with private air transfers and a local host who visitors can contact for advice and tips as needed. This year, the private transfers can be at cruise ports (so far, just in Barcelona and Civitavecchia), making these tours good for pre- or post-cruise.

Next year, Ireland will host The Gathering, which will look to bring people of Irish ancestry back to their homeland for a visit. Events will be held throughout the country, hosted by national and local tourism boards and communities. All of Brendan's Ireland tours for 2013 will include some element of The Gathering, whether it's simply meeting up with locals in small towns or celebrating in Dublin. Visit www.gatheringireland.com for more information on events.

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