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New Approaches to International Favorites

One particular flavor of malaise is all too common among frequent world travelers: If  you go on enough tours of enough places, chances are good that your destinations will eventually all begin to look the same.

How does this happen? The highly structured nature of traditional group tourism may have something to do with it. For years, tours to most anywhere in the world have been run on a single template built generations ago: Pile a bunch of people on a bus, take them on a short visit at a highlight attraction, feed them something quick and cheap, and then continue to the next destination.

When all tours are run the same, is it any wonder that all destinations begin to feel the same too?

Fortunately, the homogeneity of the past has begun to give way to diverse ideas that are changing the international travel experience. As a new generation of travelers brings its tastes and demands to the marketplace, tour operators are adapting their practices and beginning to approach their international products from a new perspective.

We caught up with five tour operators — some large and some small — to find out how they are putting new twists on favorite destinations around the world.



Like other large-scale tour operators, Collette built its reputation on panorama tours that include multiple cities — and even multiple countries — and that often span two weeks or more. But in order to offer both increased free time and more in-depth experiences, the company has rolled out a new line of tours that highlight individual cities.

“We have a new product line called Spotlights,” said Juan Gali, director of product development at Collette. “It’s just five or six nights in a bucket list destination that you have to see in your lifetime, places like London, Dublin, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Madrid and Barcelona.

“There may be two, or two and a half days of included activities, and then we give you free time to explore the city on your own. It’s about striking the right balance between flexibility and guided touring. So we’ll have a choice of included activities on the same day.”

Collette is also looking to refine its approach to restaurants and hotels, two essential tour components that have become more important for today’s travelers than they were in the past.

“We’re finding that the expectations and the standards for food and meal experiences are growing more and more,” Gali said. “We’re trying to incorporate more local restaurants, instead of having lunches and dinners at the hotel, which was the norm 10 years ago. We’re looking at wine tastings and hands-on experiences, like cooking your own food, participating in cooking demonstrations and visiting local farms.”

Gali said baby boomers and other younger travelers are also more demanding about the amenities included at hotels. Internet access is a must, he said, and it’s becoming more common for hoteliers to include in-room Internet access at no charge for tour groups.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.