Is it possible to "have it all"? It's a question some travellers might ask when it comes to enjoying a well-curated experience but without the restrictions of group touring. Turns out, there are products on the market that appeal to this exact demand thanks to thoughtful, in-depth self-guided itineraries such as those offered by Exodus. So what do travel advisors need to know to get selling? With the help of Sasha Andrews, industry sales and marketing, Exodus Travels, CT has compiled this handy guide to help you better understand the opportunities.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: WHAT EXACTLY IS A SELF-GUIDED HOLIDAY?
Pretty simple: there is no group and no tour leader but at Exodus, clients are guided by in-depth tour notes to lay the path. These detailed route descriptions include any possible information a traveller may need, from recommendations for the best lunch and rest spots, to excursion suggestions and notes on places of interest. Plus, accommodations throughout the journey are included as well. “On our SelfGuided trips, clients never feel rushed, or alone,” explains Andrews of the product. “Plus, Exodus will transport their luggage between hotels and provide high-quality support through local suppliers, as well as 24-hour emergency support if required.”
AS FOR THE TARGET CLIENTELE…
It goes without saying that self-guided touring appeals best to independent travellers who want to explore on their own without worrying about planning and logistics. “With the opportunity to cherry-pick the sights they want to see or spend a little longer enjoying sumptuous meals, these trips are a traveller’s dream come true,” Andrews says, pointing to a few different opportunities:
- COUPLES: Without a group, couples have the benefit of ample alone time; they can enjoy the combination of romantic locales and awesome accommodation. Self-guided tours may appeal to newlyweds, couples celebrating an anniversary, or the pair who just wants to get away.
- FAMILIES: Travelling with children is a challenge in and of itself, especially if there is a lot of moving around. To help make the process easier and more enjoyable for all involved, centre-based walking itineraries give families the chance to choose their walks and to enjoy various experience at their own place, without pressure to keep up with a group. “Many of Exodus’ cycling tours have trailer bikes and child seats available so little ones can enjoy the ride too,” Andrews notes, adding that on self-guided tours, the minimum age is often as young as two years old.
- MULTI-GENERATIONAL FAMILIES: For families with differing levels of fitness, centre-based tours allow everyone to pick and choose which walks they want to do, and which ones they’d rather skip. Family members who choose to stay back are in for a treat with accommodations ranging from historic water mills (still in operation today) and converted farmhouses, to 11th-century monasteries and old distilleries.
- RIVER CRUISERS: Because of the flexibility offered by self-guided tours, travellers can request departures for any date. For travellers who want to spend more time getting to know a destination rather than just a quick port stop, consider these options as a way to add-on or upsell a river cruise experience.
MAKES SENSE, RIGHT? BUT WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU, THE TRAVEL ADVISOR?
“Many clients are not ‘group travel people,’” Andrews tells CT, “and booking self-guided tours with Exodus will allow them to capture this business as a one-stop-shop as opposed to piecing together FITs which can be time-consuming and don’t always pay high commissions.” She adds that travel advisors should look to special interest organizations – bike clubs, hiking & outdoor clubs or wine clubs – for private booking opportunities. “These are pre-qualified pax with similar interests, so finding a pied piper is key to growing your active/self-guided business,” she suggests.
Sue Flemming of Janes Worldwide Travel suggests asking the following questions to qualify a client: Have you done this type of trip before? Are you comfortable guiding yourself and following maps and GPS directions? Do you get stressed out if you get lost? Are you happy to be on your own and not with a group? Are you comfortable without a support vehicle? How can you upsell a self-guided experience?
As for Tom Gehrels of Adventure Coordinators, he says travel advisors should “Go on a trip and you will be a lifelong convert yourself. That enthusiasm spreads to your clients.” He suggests targeting clients who are able to “find their own way in places they have not been before,” and those “who are adventurous and like to explore new destinations.”
A PEEK AT EXODUS PRODUCT
- Exodus Travels offers more than 80 Self-Guided Cycling and Walking itineraries throughout Europe.
- Travel advisors can find a selection of “Gastronomic” walking and cycling adventures specially designed around hotels that offer outstanding regional cuisine, available in the Loire Valley, Burgundy, Dordogne and Barolo.