The Avalaon Imagery sails through Budapest
Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the Globus family of brands now operates 37 travel offices worldwide and serves 500,000 travelers who journey to 60 countries each year. Besides Avalon Waterways, other major brands include Globus and Cosmos, famed through the years for escorted touring, as well as the Monograms brand, designed for more independently minded travelers desiring a hosted approach to city stays and multi-city journeys. The brands are owned by a privately held Swiss company, which, in turn, owns many other travel companies across the globe; collectively, the companies generate $3 billion in annual sales and employ 5,000 employees.
Ten years ago, Globus didn’t operate a major niche cruise brand. This changed with the launch of Avalon Waterways, now offering river and small-ship voyages in Europe, China, Egypt and the Galapagos. Today, cruisers sail on a modern fleet of 10 vessels with two more riverboats, Affinity and Creativity, launching in 2009. Another two new river boats—which Travel Agent, in an exclusive, has learned will be called Felicity and Luminary—will follow in 2010.
In 1928, founder Antonio Mantegazza bought a rowboat on credit, giving tour highlights as he transported travelers across Switzerland’s Lake Lugano. Soon, he acquired more rowboats, then motorboats and then taxis. In the mid-1930s, he bought his first motorcoach. By the late 1930s, Globus was operating 12 coaches under the Globus Viaggi name.
“So much has changed in the industry [since our founding], but we’ve done a pretty good job of adapting to change,” says Scott Nisbet, senior vice president and COO for the Globus family of brands, based in Littleton, CO. “We’ve done that by listening to travel agents and to travelers,” he adds, citing the firm’s extensive destination and logistical expertise and its robust product inclusions as the factors differentiating his brands from others. For example, Globus tour directors average 14 years of experience.
In a recent survey of 500 travel agencies (conducted for Globus), Ipsos, a well-known research group, utilized its own ARC database (not Globus’ trade list) to poll agents about how satisfied they were with specific tour companies. Nisbet says 78 percent of agents responded “very satisfied” in reference to Globus, which ranked highest of any tour operator. Other tour firms posted 43 to 75 percent satisfaction ratings.
Similarly, when the agents were asked which escorted tour operator they recommended most to clients, 54 percent cited Globus, vs. 2 to 10 percent for other tour companies. As for trade satisfaction with commissions, Nisbet says 67 percent of agents said they were very satisfied with Globus’ commission, vs. 43 to 51 percent of agents when talking about other tour firms.
What’s new for the company in 2009? “We did research with travelers and travel agents to recreate the European panorama or grand tour of Europe,” says Nisbet. “It’s coming out in October” for the Globus brand. Vignettes are 14 days or fewer, and typically involve two- to three-night stays in multiple cities. The journeys focus on fewer countries, a relaxed pace, lots of leisure time and heavy use of trains.
The four new Vignettes include “The Best of Italy and France”; “Europe’s Golden Coast,” from Rome to Madrid; “Highlights of Italy and Eastern Europe,” from Rome to Berlin; and “Enchanting Europe,” with visits to the UK, France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.
Continuing to Grow
More than 90 percent of all Globus’ guests surveyed at vacation’s end say they intend to return on another Globus vacation. Not surprisingly, Globus recently launched two new tours for repeaters. “Italy is so popular that travelers now want to come back and experience particular regions in depth,” says Nisbet. The new tours are “Umbria’s Treasures” and “Northern Italy’s Highlights and Cinque Terre.”
When Nisbet began working for Globus a decade ago, the average guest age was 66; today that’s dropped to about 58, due to increased family and specialty travel, including religious travel and culinary/wine programs. After three consecutive years of increased religious package sales, Globus has unveiled two new religion-focused vacations to Israel and Italy for 2009.
To satisfy today’s travelers seeking more flexible arrangements, Globus’ Monograms brand was introduced several years ago. “It’s really an evolution of packaging,” says Steve Born, the company’s vice president of marketing and customer care. “We parlay all of our experience, all the logistical support, the hotels, our buying power, our infrastructure and human support in destinations worldwide. But we do that without following a [tour] itinerary.”
Still, this is a relatively tough year for consumers. Fortunately, “the exotic destinations that are not based on the euro are doing very well this year,” notes Nisbet. “We’re having a record year in South America.” To spur additional sales, Globus recently removed the single supplement on 11 new land itineraries, saving solo travelers up to $550, and a new collection of low-season travel packages is delivering 20 to 50 percent savings.
Born says agents might benefit from the company’s many marketing tools and training, including customized postcards or webinars. In addition, a “first-timer kit” is designed to help the trade sell a tour or river cruise to the novice customer. For agent-related information on the Globus family of brands, visit www.globusfamilypartner.com.
Although the company’s offerings have expanded, its corporate mission remains much the same as it was at its founding. “We want to help people with logistics big and small, and to help them discover their destination,” stresses Born. “We want to share our expertise and [deliver the] logistics. That’s the same idea, but it’s taken on a whole new scope.”
Globus is also diversifying. Over the years, “Globus has been very heavily into Europe, very heavily into escorted travel and that’s changing,” says Nisbet. “Five years from now I think it will be more balanced. The exotic destinations, the river cruising, Monograms and specialty products all will be a bigger piece of what we do. We’ve taken huge leaps and we’ll do more.”