Once limited to European coach travel, escorted tours are now available to virtually every corner of the globe and more adventurous tours or ones catering to special interests are attracting younger and more active clients and giving agents a wider market to sell to.

“Escorted coach tours offer an unforgettable holiday. Instead of a single destination you experience the many highlights of a particular country or region in a convenient way”

SIMON EDWARDS, PRODUCT MANAGER EUROPE, TITAN TRAVEL

Perfect 10

  1. One-stop holiday shop: Travel, accommodation, meals, itinerary planning and entry to featured attractions are all taken care of, leaving clients to relax and enjoy their chosen destination

  2. Flexibility: Escorted tours provide a range of travel options to suit all clients and budgets including coach, Eurostar, fly-rail and air, with some operators offering door-to-door transfers and regional pick-up points

  3. Go it alone: Escorted itineraries are a no-stress travel option for single travellers to travel with like-minded people, and some companies run dedicated solo tours

  4. Follow a theme: The annual spectacle of Holland’s dazzling bulb fields, insightful wartime battlefield tours or Japan’s cherry blossom are among many themed itineraries to suggest to clients

  5. All-inclusive cruise: River cruises provide a high level of inclusions from wine with lunch and dinner, unlimited tea and coffee, bottled water and free Wi-Fi to an open bar and all tips

  6. Let off steam: Classic rail tours offer a culture-rich journey that will appeal to more mainstream travellers as much as steam enthusiasts

  7. Comfort: Clients new to escorted touring may have rigid preconceptions about coach travel, so point out that modern vehicles are spacious and air-conditioned, with facilities like reclining seats, coffee machines and toilets

  8. Knowledge and expertise: Escorted itineraries have a dedicated and knowledgeable tour manager who stays with the group for the duration and gets to know clients on a personal basis

  9. See the sights: Touring by rail or river throughout uninterrupted scenery – or on a coach with a vantage point above other traffic – is the best way to enjoy land and cityscapes

  10. Festive fun: Europe’s Christmas markets, mainly held in historic locations, are a highlight of the festive season: it’s easy for clients to bring presents back from a coach or rail trip

New horizons

Mark Henderson, Senior Product & Commercial Manager - Touring, Travel 2, says key areas of expansion include New Zealand, which is hosting the British Lions rugby tour this year, North America, India, Asia and South America. Other milestone events this year include the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

“We also anticipate growth in destinations that have recently seen restrictions soften such as Burma and Cuba,” he added. “We also expect core destinations such as Canada and Australia to perform well, and have increased the product offering in both by adding new tours.”

For clients that want to let the train take the strain, there is a notable increase in escorted rail tours for 2017. Alex Roberts, Group Marketing and Sales Director of Rail Discoveries, said: “The sociable atmosphere of an escorted group tour with Great Rail Journeys is perfect for people who want to take the stress out of travelling. They are able to be as involved or as independent as they want, knowing that all the logistics and problem solving is in the competent hands of our experienced tour managers.”

Peter Liney, CEO of sister company Great Rail Journeys, added: “The tour manager helps the group to bond by finding out common interests and sharing insider knowledge of the destination.”

Going solo

Mark Henderson, Senior Product & Commercial Manager - Touring, Travel 2, says key areas of expansion include New Zealand, which is hosting the British Lions rugby tour this year, North America, India, Asia and South America. Other milestone events this year include the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

“We also anticipate growth in destinations that have recently seen restrictions soften such as Burma and Cuba,” he added. “We also expect core destinations such as Canada and Australia to perform well, and have increased the product offering in both by adding new tours.”

For clients that want to let the train take the strain, there is a notable increase in escorted rail tours for 2017. Alex Roberts, Group Marketing and Sales Director of Rail Discoveries, said: “The sociable atmosphere of an escorted group tour with Great Rail Journeys is perfect for people who want to take the stress out of travelling. They are able to be as involved or as independent as they want, knowing that all the logistics and problem solving is in the competent hands of our experienced tour managers.”

Peter Liney, CEO of sister company Great Rail Journeys, added: “The tour manager helps the group to bond by finding out common interests and sharing insider knowledge of the destination.”

What the experts say

“Germany offers travel professionals year-round opportunities for inspiring and highly popular escorted tours.

“With a superb transport infrastructure, coupled with fascinating cities, beautiful countryside and picturesque towns and villages, there are events and highlights to visit at any time and to suit all tastes and budgets.

“Travelling by train and coach offers the perfect vantage point to explore Germany ‘off the beaten track’ and to go where the locals go; a warm welcome is assured and Germany also offers great value for money.

“Escorted accessible travel is another area where we provide wholehearted advice and support and we look forward to hearing from anyone who wants to take advantage of the great potential that accessible travel presents.”
KLAUS LOHMANN, DIRECTOR, GERMAN NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE UK AND IRELAND

“Take time to speak to your customers when they enquire about a holiday. Find out about their hobbies and interests and then use this knowledge to cross sell. A basic understanding of what’s available will also go a long way to selling more holidays. For escorted tours it’s key to understand the location and what’s included in the price, such as excursions”
CAROLINE BROWN, COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, SHEARINGS HOLIDAYS

What’s new

Europe: Shearings’ 2017 Grand Tourer Collection brochure features five new itineraries including a nine-night Flavours of Italy tour and special interest breaks such as the Monaco and Monza Grand Prix.

Cosmos Tours has launched new culinary and religious tours that include the seven-night Spiritual Highlights of Poland tour, from Warsaw to Zakopane, and the seven-night Gourmet Tuscany option with cookery classes, wine and food tastings.

Long haul: Titan is featuring Madagascar for the first time with a 14-night Land of the Lemur escorted tour. Other new tours include the 14-night Canadian Rockies Grand Circle, featuring the Rocky Mountaineer train, to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Saga will debut a 13-night, 2,792-mile Great Canadian Train Journey plus a 10-night Californian rail tour with a drive along the iconic Highway One to San Francisco.

Rail: Saga has launched a new 10-night Grand Tour of Portugal by Rail. Golden Eagle Luxury Trains has a new 11-night Sicilian Odyssey, said to be the first cultural tour of Sicily by hotel-train.

Ffestiniog Travel has new European itineraries, including the 15-night Danube from Sea to Source rail and river tour, plus new Connoisseur Tours for clients with a passion for railways.

Diamond Rail Holidays has introduced a four-night Winter Magic in the Hartz Mountains tour.

Trade: New Zealand specialist Silver Fern Holidays, which formerly sold groups tours, has re-invented itself as a tailor-made operator selling through the trade.

Where to book it

Titan’s 14-night Land of the Lemur small group tour, taking in national parks and wildlife reserves, is priced from £3,699pp for travel in April 2018, including most meals, flights and Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service.

A six-night Classical Spain tour for solo travellers from Riviera Travel features Seville, Granada, Cordoba and Ronda, and is priced from £949pp for travel in June, including a welcome dinner, B&B accommodation and flights.

Rail Discoveries new four-day Paris & Versailles tour is priced from £315pp, including Eurostar and B&B accommodation, for travel in August.