There's no feeling in the world like connecting with new places, people and experiences through travel. Indeed, the desire to truly feel the authenticity of a destination – through meeting its people, hearing its stories and tasting locally sourced and prepared foods and beverages – is the foundation of the trend towards experiential travel.
Trafalgar has been at the forefront of inspirational travel, having long ago evolved beyond traditional and stereotypical coach touring and the notion that a destination is little more than a checklist of sites and highlights.
With this in mind, CT chatted with Trafalgar Canada president Wolf Paunic and national marketing manager Angela Bokma about the Trafalgar Be My Guest (BMG) program, which, amongst other things, allows Trafalgar customers to dine with local families in their homes, learn how to cook regional dishes, and share a glass or two with winemakers at their vineyards – all designed to deliver a deeper understanding of the lives and history of a destination’s people and ultimately, a more meaningful and memorable experience for visitors.
What is the origin of the BMG experience?
Be My Guest experiences really came about organically when Trafalgar travel directors wanted to offer something truly unique and authentic to their guests. It started with a beautiful lemon grove farm in Limonia in Positano, Italy, when one of our travel directors brought their guests to the farm of a local they knew, with the intention of showing them true Italian family hospitality. It was about the host, their warmth, the home-grown food, and the freshly prepared dinner served in the lemon grove overlooking the Bay of Naples – a combination that left everyone breathless. The idea was then picked up by Trafalgar planners, who went out to source the most hospitable hosts in the most interesting places to see.
Do all Trafalgar Guided Vacations include a BMG experience?
Yes. They started gradually, as it was not easy to discover exclusive, authentic locations with willing and always friendly hosts. In 2018, every Trafalgar guided vacation anywhere in the world (six continents and 268 programs) includes a Be My Guest visit and a meal. These experiences connect guests to the soul of their destination, where they have all the details taken care of and are free to just be – be happy, be in the moment, be inspired.
What kind of feedback do you get about BMG?
More than 95 per cent of survey guests rate their Trafalgar Be My Guest experience as their most authentic and memorable travel experience. They get an opportunity to connect with a local host and spend time chatting and breaking bread with their fellow travellers while enjoying a true taste of local hospitality.
Tell us about some of the exceptional experiences.
- BEST OF ITALY: Clients can savour la dolce vita – “the good life” – on this 13-day trip by exploring spectacular landscapes, regional flavours and immersive culture. They come away with extraordinary memories from guided excursions in Rome, Pompeii, Capri, Assisi and Florence, and enjoy a Be My Guest experience at a family-run restaurant on the secluded Isola Madre island on Lake Maggiore. Authentic accommodations include the romantic Grande Albergo Ausonia & Hungaria, which opened in 1907 on the exclusive Lido di Venezia, and Il Cantico, which is just a short walk from the Vatican.
- SOUTHERN ITALY AND SICILY: On this 10-day guided vacation, guests venture from the ancient capital of Rome to the historic hill town of Monreale, admiring rolling hills and historical treasures along the way. Travellers visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cassino, view the excavations at Pompeii, and tour the impressive ruins of the ancient Greek Theatre at Taormina. Guests can also discover rustic fishing village life in Mondello and are treated to a Be My Guest experience at a wine farm at the foot of Mount Etna, plus a cruise to the isle of Capri. A Cultural Insights experience teaches guests about the exquisite craft of inlaid wood at a workshop in Sorrento, and the opportunity to enjoy a local wine tasting under the warm Sicilian sun.
Is BMG important in the booking decision process?
Absolutely, because the opportunity to connect with true locals and to enjoy locally grown and home-made food in the company of friends is not something most travellers can just happen upon. We know from our own experience that many travellers value their local food and wine experiences above everything else. If you take for an example, the unedited, curated reviews Trafalgar receives from guests via the FEEFO online engine, along with the 97 per cent overall guest satisfaction rating, Be My Guest experiences are among the top reasons guests confidently book Trafalgar travel. The Be My Guest experiences are so much a part of the Trafalgar DNA that we include them in every itinerary.