Yves Fore is excited. He has just fielded a call from an outbound tour operator in Europe who wants Fore to develop a specialized itinerary, one that opens travelers’ eyes to the issues of slavery in America.
“For me, this is a fantastic challenge,” said Fore. “I am thinking about this nonstop, and I cannot wait to talk to people and do tons of research to see what we can do. I want to create a package that everybody will see and say, ‘I want to go on that tour.’”
Customized tour packages are the specialty of America & Beyond, a receptive tour operator led by Roger Montgomery, CEO and president, and Fore, vice president of operations. They launched what they describe as a “boutique” receptive tour company four years ago and in that short time, America & Beyond has made a highly favorable impression.
In fact, in December, America & Beyond was named one of Travel South USA’s Ambassadors at the 12-state regional marketing alliance’s international conference in St. Louis. The award recognizes America & Beyond’s work in marketing the American South to travelers. Their tours of the region, from civil rights sites to Delta blues bars and Nashville’s sounds, have resonated with European travelers.
Fore marvels at the recognition from Travel South, noting that among 2018’s Ambassadors were large receptive tour operators with decades in business. “This is a big honor for such a small company as ours,” he said.
Bringing different skills to the table
Montgomery is a native Californian who spent most of his career on Wall Street but keeps a giant RV readied for road trips. Fore was born in the south of France but has lived many years in New York and has for 30 years worked for large receptive tour operators as well as hotels.
Like Fore, Montgomery develops itineraries, but he also puts much of his focus on finances. “We run a very fiscally conservative company. We want to make sure we are around in the long-term, providing for our clients.”
Fore’s years in travel and tourism mean valuable connections to tour operators, hotels, attractions and other suppliers.
Because both have traveled extensively, Montgomery and Fore can sit down with a client and come up with an itinerary that won’t be staid or standard and will also have a marketable price point. “We approach it in a consultative manner,” said Montgomery. “Wherever we send tours, Yves or I have probably been there and experienced what they will experience.”
America & Beyond has impressed many clients with personal service that belies the company’s small size. “The phone numbers on our business cards and emails, those are our cell phones,” said Montgomery. “If a client calls outside office hours, the call does not go to a hotline or someone in another country, it rings through to us and we handle it.”
Such service does not go unnoticed. “We met with a client–the largest tour operator in Italy–and the first thing they said to us was, ‘When something happens, you have the best customer service and you take care of the problem right away,’” said Fore.
Already, America & Beyond is getting repeat calls from outbound tour operators, ready to develop the next tour.
“Our biggest thrill,” said Montgomery, “is when we hear that a passenger has returned to an outbound operator in Europe because they liked what they experienced on that first tour–and the tour operator used us– and then the tour operator comes back to us, because we did such a good job.”
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