Trafalgar Tours' president, Paul Wiseman
In just a few weeks, Trafalgar Tours, founded in 1947, will hit the 5-millionth customer mark. The tourism landscape has changed remarkably along the way, notes Paul Wiseman, Trafalgar’s president. “Just after World War II, we were undertaking tours of Europe and it was incredibly difficult to travel then with checkpoints at border countries, no common language and multiple currencies,” he says. Now those barriers are, for the most part, gone.
So how does Trafalgar— a wholly owned subsidiary of TravelCorp.— continue to evolve and thrive in this era of do-it-yourself vacation travel? Wiseman says that with 61 years of know-how, Trafalgar has the expertise to save consumers time in planning, organizing and implementing their vacation. He cites his firm’s tour directors as invaluable in satisfying guests and developing repeat business.
In addition, Trafalgar’s negotiated rates can save up to 40 percent off the cost of the same vacation created by individual travelers on their own. For example, Trafalgar’s price for “The Californian,” a nine-day tour in 2009 between San Diego and San Francisco, is priced at $1,875 per person. Wiseman says that would compare with a price of $3,499 per person if a couple booked their own arrangements.
More than 100,000 guests take Trafalgar’s tours annually to destinations in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand and China. Michelle Duncan, president and CEO, Odyssey Travel, Centreville, VA, has booked Trafalgar many times and says, “I’ve had numerous guests feel it was an excellent value and praise the tour guides.”
What’s ahead for 2009? Wiseman says collateral is being released earlier than usual this year. Many programs are already out in the marketplace. In October, agents can expect to see the new 2009 First Class and Cost Saver European programs as well as the Breakaway touring program.
Trafalgar will offer 30 river cruises in 2009 including voyages on sister brand Uniworld’s newest ship, River Beatrice, launching next spring with hotel-style beds, French balconies and a panoramic lounge. Trafalgar also will offer new nine- to 32-day, five-star cruises departing from Paris. “All river cruise products are seeing consistent strong growth,” says Wiseman.
In the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Trafalgar will offer 35 seven-to-17-day travel experiences, priced from $1,199 per person. And, for new bookings made by October 31 on these 2009 U.S., Canada and Mexico options, Trafalgar will offer savings of up to $150 per person/$300 per couple for tours of 10 days or longer (mention code TTUSA33). Savings of $100 per person/$200 per couple apply to tours seven-to-nine days in length (mention code TTUSA23).
Within that North America program, there are four new options including the “Treasures of the Yucatan”; “Southern Coast & Great Smoky Mountains”; “Adventures in the Wild Northwest”; and “Splendors of Western Canada.” Tours aren’t just for singles or couples; three family-focused options close to home include “Pioneer Adventures of the Old West”; “Adventures in the Wild Northwest”; and “Wild West, Cowboys and Buffalos.” Guests on U.S., Canada and Mexico vacations enjoy first-class hotel accommodations; transportation by motorcoach, rail or cruise ship; meals; daily sightseeing and optional excursions; and the services of a tour director.
In Europe, clients might book first-class or more affordable cost-saver programs. And for clients concerned about Europe from the budget perspective, Wiseman urges agents to look at “amazing deals for the end of spring in Europe, when compared with summer pricing.”
European multi-country “Discovery” tours are highly popular with first timers, Wiseman notes: “Guests are very happy with those tours, as they’ve dreamed for years about seeing the icons of Europe, such as Buckingham Palace, the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower. These are the things that resonate as a European experience.”
Visitors to Spain with Trafalgar Tours can walk along the moat at the Plaza de Espana in Seville
As first-timers become enamored with a particular country, say Italy, France or Spain, those guests then often book such regional Trafalgar tours as the “Best of France” or “Best of Italy.” “That automatically lowers the traveling distance by a considerable margin and creates a more in-depth experience in that particular region or country,” says Wiseman.
For seasoned travelers, Trafalgar’s “Free and Easy” tours appeal to clients who want to travel to one spot, such as the south of France or Tuscany. Spending five or six nights in one place, these are nothing like the tours of old,” explains Wiseman. Separately, for those 21-38 in age, “Breakaway” tours in Europe deliver a younger traveler experience that’s relaxed and of high quality, but not overly edgy or “party hearty.”
Experienced travelers flock to Russia, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Greece or Israel tours. “Those kinds of destinations are popular with well-heeled travelers who want to explore more,” Wiseman notes. Trafalgar has many customers who have done more than 10 or 20 tours; some have taken more than 40 tours.
Nearly 100 percent of Trafalgar’s sales are by agents. Based on feedback from more than 1,200 agents, Trafalgar is revamping its website and redesigning the agent portion of it. Adam Leavitt, the line’s vice president of marketing, also says the brand has introduced four new e-learning modules within that agent section. Several new modules will roll out within the next few months. He says they’ll be less general and focused on teaching agents how to sell a particular product, such as “Value Season in Europe.”
What demographics and psychographics fit best with Trafalgar? Baby boomers, couples who own their own homes, singles and multi-generational families are all part of a broad demographic. But Wiseman cites one fundamental: “We attract customers who enjoy traveling with other human beings. We don’t attract customers who are anti-social.” Duncan feels it’s a good product for those in the 50- to 60-year-old age frame with enough time and disposable income to enjoy the products.
Moving forward, Trafalgar wants consumers to better understand what the brand is and does. Leavitt’s view is that promotional messaging will flow along these lines: “We’re a company that provides expertly designed travel experiences that will save you up to 40 percent over the cost of doing it on your own.”