Sometime over the last few years, the word "tour" seems to have become a perjorative, with connotations so negative that operators are finding new ways to market their services.
Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar, calls the perception a "glass ceiling" that prevents the company from reaching new customers. "We decided over the last 18 months to do considerable research, delving into what prospective travelers were thinking about in regards to our old style of product," he explained. "We realized that the perception of the product runs quite deep with a lot of people, and that perception is negative."
Globus, meanwhile, has launched a new marketing campaign, encouraging agents and their clients to "think again" about escorted tours, and listing reasons to consider that type of vaction. Much like Trafalgar, they did studies to see what potential travelers thought about tours: "What we found [was] that the functional benefits of touring (transportation, accommodations, sightseeing, pre-set itineraries) were actually liberating to them—that they loved the idea of someone else to handle of the pieces of their vacation so they could simply relax and enjoy their destination," said Steve Born, VP of marketing for the Globus Family of Brands. We shared this with some of our top agents and they were frankly blown away. That led us to create a campaign to tackle this 'conventional wisdom' head-on."
Wiseman has a different take on the situation: "What we’re seeing in the market is a constant effort by escorted tour companies to overcome misconceptions and misperceptions," he says. "That’s the wrong strategy: It’s a genuine perception. People think, 'Escorted tours are not for me. They're too restricted, too regimented.' And that's a real perception." As such, he says, trying to change people's mind won't work. "You can’t take someone who believes something isn’t right for them and then convince them that it is," he says. "You have to change the conversation, and never introduce any wording into the conversation that triggers negative perceptions. We looked at the words: 'Tour' is a trigger."
To that end, Trafalgar is taking the word "tour" out of everything in their business...including their name. The company is no longer "Trafalgar Tours," but just "Trafalgar." "Trafalgar is leaving the tour business," he quips, "because it’s a dirty word. It triggers a bad perception."
Globus' new campaign doesn't cut the word or concept of touring, but tries to dispel popular myths, like the lack of independence on a tour or the amount of time spent on a bus or coach. "Touring has definitely evolved to a cater to a traveler that is looking to make the most of their time and money, and touring is the smartest way possible to make the most of both," Born says.