It still attracts those who prefer the comfort of a tour guide and a group, but these days escorted touring is also enticing those with an adventurous spirit – those who simply want a way to enjoy authentic local experiences and – and escorted tour operators are tapping into the trend for lesser-trodden destinations and immersive experiences.

“Our guests want to personalise their holidays so we’ve increased the choice of UK departure points, on some tours guests can extend their holiday with a rail journey, cruise or additional destination and they can pre-book extra activities appealing to specific interests”

DARREN MUSSELL, AGENCY SALES ASSISTANT MANAGER, RIVIERA TRAVEL

Touring trends

Trafalgar has just launched the first Africa programme in its 72-year history, featuring 10 trips over five destinations – Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. The operator is offering three different trip styles and durations: Country Explorer, Regional Explorer and Mini Stay, with a fly-in-fly-out safari in the Botswana Delta among the shorter options.

Meanwhile, Wendy Wu brought its first dedicated collection for South America to market this January. Nine new experiences feature Peru and Colombia, Argentina and Chile, and Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica. The operator has doubled its trade sales team to eight in support of the expansion.

It is also noting clients branching out within its existing programme. “We’ve seen a huge demand for exotic destinations with unique boutique properties, eco-friendly lodges and some lesser-explored countries in Southeast Asia,” said Wendy Wu’s Southeast Asia product manager Linh Farid.

“While Vietnam and Cambodia are still the best-selling destinations in the area, Borneo is also trendy at the moment. All our group departures this year have been sold out and we’re receiving lots of bookings for 2019.

She added: “The destination attracts lots of customers seeking wildlife but they can also have some cultural experiences or relax on a beautiful white sandy beach.” The operator has also noted great Borneo demand from solo travellers.

Escorted group tours to Indonesia are also booming for Wendy Wu, prompting it to add a new tour.

G Adventures reports a 26% increase in UK trade sales this year for its National Geographic Journeys collection, first launched in 2016, and has recently introduced Botswana, Mongolia and Southern Tanzania. It now features 83 immersive tours.

“The collection has gone from strength to strength, with fantastic feedback from agents. The combination of destinations, upgraded accommodation and exclusive experiences is seeing us enjoy great success here in the UK,” commented Brian Young, G Adventures’ Managing Director.

Escorted tours to Jordan, Egypt and Turkey are also booming for the operator with Jordan bookings more than doubled and Turkey up over 130% this year. It puts this in part down to the extra dimension offered by its multisport adventures in the country.

Best sellers

Do Wat’s Best: Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex is a must-see but savvy suppliers who avoid crush times at the most popular temples can make all the difference. Some small group adventure operators will even whizz clients between ruins by breezy tuk tuk – a wonderful experience.

Sail Sri Lanka: You can now sail Sri Lanka’s less discovered East Coast. G Adventures has added an eight-person catamaran cruise to the region following the success of a similar experience off the country’s southern coast. The coasts have opposite seasons and the cruises have been scheduled to hit peak whale-watching times.

Fest is best: Timing a tour to coincide with a local festival can add an unforgettable extra dimension to a holiday - from water-throwing Songkran in Thailand to colourful Holi in India and the cultural White Nights in St Petersburg. On The Go is among operators with festival departures, while TransIndus can tailor-make relevant itineraries in India.

Past and Present: Go beyond the headlines and highlights in Israel with a new 10-night Holy Land: Past and Present tour from Prestige. Besides Jerusalem and Galilee it includes a visit to both a refugee camp and a Bedouin community.

Private perks: You can personalise the touring experience by using a private driver-guide. Perfect for families, honeymooners, or those with special interests, the option’s available from operators including Kuoni, First Class Holidays, Premier Holidays, Cox & Kings, Regent and Travel 2.

What’s new

G Adventures has rebranded its tours for 18-39 year olds. Previously called YOLO (You Only Live Once) they are now ‘18-Thirtysomethings’ for clarity. Eight new trips have been added including a Thai Full Moon Party experience and new tours in Japan, the Philippines, Laos and Indonesia. In its regular programme, Hawaii tours are new.

Riviera Travel has six new tours for 2019, some expanded from excursion destinations that proved popular with clients. They include Umbria, Perugia and Assisi: the Heart of Italy; Montenegro: Budva, Cetinje & the Bay of Kotor; and Antarctica for January 2019.

Newmarket Holidays has extended its £79pp deposits for 2019 holidays till August 31. The operator has also recently updated its training programme which gives agents 15% off personal holidays and access to prize draws.

New Flowers and Festivals of Japan tours to Tokyo and Kyoto, timed to coincide with either spring cherry blossom or autumn colours, are being offered by Saga.

Meanwhile, those China-bound with Wendy Wu are currently being offered free ugrades to business class one way on international flights with Tianjin Airlines.

Shearings Holidays’ Autumn, Winter and Spring 2018/19 brochure has 27 tour additions. New seasonal breaks include A Tyrolean Christmas, and Four Countries Christmas Markets, featuring Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland in seven days. There is also a new Holland in Springtime river cruise.

Tropical Malaysia with TV presenter and wildlife expert Nigel Marven, departing this October, is among Prestige Holidays’ new 2018 tours. Other newcomers include a nine-night adventure to Georgia and Armenia.

More adventurous still, Intrepid is seeking clients for an epic Uncharted Expedition for its 30th birthday with few details given in advance. It will start in Kazakhstan on June 30 2019 and wind up in Mongolia after three weeks.

Where to book it

G Adventures’ new 14-day Discover Mongolia journey sees travellers visit a monastery with a Buddhist monk, visit world-renowned palaeontology site the Flaming Cliffs and spend time with a family of nomadic camel-herders. The trip costs from £3,299pp excluding flights.

The six-day Christmas in Andalucia tour from Newmarket Holidays includes a day in Granada, includes entry to the Alhambra, Christmas Eve in Seville and a Christmas lunch. It costs from £799pp based on Luton-Malaga flights on December 23.

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