When you hear “guided vacations,” your mind almost undoubtedly goes straight to Europe. You already know this is a great way for your clients to discover faraway or unfamiliar places—all the details are taken care of, clients have the guidance of an expert travel director and an amazing itinerary that combines iconic places with incredible experiences they didn’t even know existed. Doesn’t that sound like a great European vacation?
But wait, doesn’t that sound like a great vacation anywhere? All the reasons your clients love guided vacations in Europe will ring true anywhere their travels take them, even when exploring close to home right here in the U.S.
And explore close to home they do. In fact, according to MMGY’s 2017 Portrait of American Travelers, domestic vacations made up 85 percent of total American vacations, with U.S. travelers taking 13.9 million more vacations in the U.S. than internationally.
Combine the market potential for domestic travel with the ease and profitability of selling guided vacations and your business is bound for success. “We see a very strong repeat rate among our guests, which translates into repeat business for travel advisors,” says Guy Young, chief engagement officer for The Travel Corporation (TTC). “Many clients will visit Europe on a guided vacation, fall in love with the travel style and continue to visit other places with our brands.”
Young continues, “For some Americans, a guided experience may seem superfluous since they are ‘home,’ but what they don’t know is how much they are missing traveling otherwise. Our guided trips make it possible for lifelong New Yorkers to experience the ways of authentic cowboys in the Great Plains, or for rural farmers to explore bustling cities guided by the comfort of locals. If your clients are looking for iconic places, truly unique experiences and a seamless vacation, guided vacations are a great option.”
Read on for 8 reasons your clients will love guided vacations in the U.S. (including reasons you’ll love to sell them!).
1. Exclusive access
There are high-demand places throughout the U.S. and the national parks regularly top that list. One of the highlights of visiting these incredible places is staying inside the park grounds, but these coveted stays are incredibly difficult to book as an FIT traveler. "I can't tell you the number of times people have told me, 'I've tried to book a hotel inside the park, but it’s nearly impossible,’ ” says Kristin Jenn, a travel director with Trafalgar. “The parks come to life in the late and early hours between day visitors and Trafalgar guests are the few who get to witness these incredible places in this authentic way. Animals graze outside their windows as they relax at night, and in the morning, there is no long, complicated drive to get in—you’re there, and before everyone else.”
2. Bucket-list and beyond
The guided experience goes far beyond cool hotel stays. Steven Johnson, director of the Northern Illinois Travel Society and Compass Travel in Dekalb, Illinois, notes well-known destinations like Las Vegas or New York City, while home to icons travelers from all over the world come to see, are also home to off-the-beaten-path attractions and activities even locals wouldn’t easily find without a guided vacation. “The local guides know so much about their home cities,” he explains. “They point out things that you’ve never heard of. They explain parts of history that you may not have learned in school. You go to restaurants and special locations that a regular tourist wouldn’t know about—hidden gems.”
Jenn shares an example in Utah, explaining that guests come excited about Zion and Bryce national parks, but a visit to the unusual Goblin Valley State Park surprises even those who have visited Utah before. “Most have never heard of this place, with its strange goblin-like formations called hoodoos. It’s so cool to see, yet so many miss the opportunity. Not Trafalgar guests,” assures Jenn.
3. Unique experiences
It’s one thing to see a destination, but it’s quite another to experience it. In today’s travel culture, cookie-cutter experiences are a definite no-no as travelers seek authenticity and connection to the places they visit. Jenn loves the reaction from her guests during these heartfelt encounters, like a meet-and-greet in South Dakota with Stephen Yellowhawk, of the Lakota tribe, who performs and shares stories about his Native American traditions during a private gathering just for them. “A genuine transformation takes place when our guests connect with Stephen as he shares his unique Native American heritage,” she says. “There is no substitute for spending time, real time, with locals. This is the power of guided travel.”
No matter where clients travel in the U.S., guided vacations allow them to make connections and enjoy experiences they simply couldn’t re-create on their own. Click on the video below to take a sneak peek at what clients can expect in Natchez, Mississippi, for example, where Trafalgar presents an intimate Be My Guest experience, complete with local celebrities, historic homes and outstanding cuisine.
4. Perfection in planning
Independent travelers (or their travel advisors) spend hours and hours researching and piecing together vacations. With guided trips, the planning is done by a team of experts who, according to Jenn, “meticulously craft” each itinerary so travelers get the most out of their vacation time. Jon Grutzner, president of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, stresses that in a time-deprived society, you can’t put a price on letting someone else to do the legwork. “Our teams have traveled extensively throughout these destinations, taking care to find the best possible experiences. And beyond the surface, there are dozens and dozens of people behind the scenes ensuring everything runs smoothly. Advisors don’t have to be experts in every destination or worry about managing the day-to-day details—they can rely on us to deliver incredible vacations to their clients.”
5. Lasting friendships
The human factor is a key part of any vacation, and with a guided vacation, travelers mingle and forge potentially long-lasting friendships. “Travelers seek connection. One of the big benefits is the people you’re traveling with, from different walks of life and from around the United States and even around the world,” says Jack Larsen, a travel director with Trafalgar and Costsaver. “The destinations are amazing, and when you tie that in with great conversation, great company and great people, you feel part of a community, and you feel comfortable and relaxed.”
6. Unmistakable value
As if there weren’t enough reasons to love guided vacations, the value for money might seal the deal. “Because of our buying power as a leading travel company, we get great deals from hotels and other vendors,” says Larsen. Johnson agrees about the economic appeal of guided vacations. “It’s a very good value, since most things are included,” he says. “Everything is taken care of and clients just enjoy it. They don’t have to worry about nickel-and-diming. They know what their vacation is going to cost.”
7. Stress-free all the way
Travel advisors and their clients who book guided vacations can rest assured that they’ll be taken care of every step of the way. “The travel director is why you can sit back and relax, because that person is on the phone and talking to the hotels and restaurants and making sure everything is going well,” says Johnson. “There’s no muss, no fuss, no waiting. They have all the connections. It’s a seamless vacation.”
Not only do travelers benefit from that sense of comfort, but travel advisors can rest easy, knowing their clients are in good hands. “If a travel advisor knows they can have confidence sending clients on our trips, it gives the advisor peace of mind,” says Larsen. “That’s really what you want: to make people feel like they’re cared for and looked after.”
Jenn says the fact that vacationers can avoid driving is an especially big selling point, whether it’s the winding roads of national parks or one-way streets of big, busy cities. “Having someone else doing the driving for you, doing the routing, is invaluable. And having someone else do the itinerary so that all you have to do is show up—that’s priceless.”
8. Earning potential
Travel advisors interested in boosting revenue will find opportunity with the domestic guided vacation segment, according to Grutzner. “Guided vacations pay commission on all components of the trip, making them a much better proposition from a time and ROI standpoint. You’re making great money on a trip that is so quick and easy to book for your clients. More than that, guided vacations delight travelers and a happy client is one who will return to you again and again, and recommend friends.”
The Travel Corporation (TTC) is committed to helping you succeed in 2019. See below for The Travel Corporation Makes U.S. Guided Vacations an Easy Sell and for links to additional Thought Leadership articles from TTC.