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JUL-AUG 2016

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46 J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 C O M F O R T A N D A D V E N T U R E O n the one hand, meeting a Maasai tribe in Ke- nya sounds unforgettable. On the other hand, an unfamiliar African country that may or may not have American amenities might be less tempting. When tours fi nd a balance between sought-after experiences and upscale amenities, they often appeal to a wider audience. Instead of tours that speak only to luxury lovers or that focus on culturally enriching programs, group travel planners should seek itineraries that embrace both. Many American travelers are shocked when they are im- mersed in an exotic culture. To combat this issue, travel plan- ners should fi nd ways to balance the unfamiliar and the com- fortable. A L L A B O U T A M E N I T I E S Wandering through the streets of India with nothing but a backpack will immerse visitors in a destination, but that is an experience that would attract fewer people than a tour that re- tained some Western amenities. For example, because the tra- ditional Indian bathroom looks terrifying to most Americans, an upscale tour operator might make sure that all pit stops of- fer Western-style toilets. Many locally minded tour operators, such as Go Ahead Tours, strive to attract groups by weaving upscale ex- periences into the tour. "Balancing the authentic experiences with the amenities our travelers are used to is always on our minds," said Brandi Longtin-Saade, the company's head of business development and partnerships. "Basically, the rule of thumb is to make sure people have a comfortable and quality home base, es- pecially when they are somewhere really exotic." Go Ahead Tours blends local and luxury in tours to destinations like Peru, where groups stay in eco- friendly lodges in the Amazon with close access to wildlife and the cozy feel of an upscale hotel. For some destinations, planners might book a cruise to en- sure guests enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep in a foreign land. MSC Cruises specializes in sophisticated cruises that in- troduce passengers to foreign cultures. "I think cruising is a unique way to handle exotic locations, because you are in a diff erent country every day, while the cruise ship is your home," said Ken Muskat, executive vice president of sales, public relations and guest services for MSC Cruises. "You've got all the luxurious amenities the ship off ers alongside the authentic shore excursions." C O M F O R TA B L E C U LT U R E While amenities may bring peace of mind, travelers often book one trip over another because of the promised local en- counters. A cheese-making class in Switzerland or a coff ee plan- tation tour in Costa Rica attract curious group members who seek a memorable experience. "We never want people to see the destination from the out- side," said Longtin-Saade. "Staying true to the destination is part of who we are. We off er cooking classes with local chefs, volun- teer work, art workshops or other opportunities to get up close with the culture." Tour operators like Go Ahead Tours craft experiences that entertain as they teach participants about the des- tination. e company's smaller tours also help ensure a more authentic feel than is sometimes possible on an unwieldy motorcoach packed full of people. MSC Cruises similarly off ers ex- periential excursions, such as camel rides, visits to artist studios and local concerts. e cruise line also tries to bring authentic ex- periences on the ship through local cuisine, entertainment and re- tail options. "We will make sure there are a few culinary options that represent the BY ELIZA MYERS marketing Y O U R P R O G R A M v e l J U t or mig h t ma k e sure t h at a ll pit stops of - e ts. d ed tour operators, such as Go Ahead t groups by weaving upscale ex - u r. h entic experiences u r travelers are u r minds," said th e company's el opment an d y , the rule o f e p eo p le have a y home base, es - s omew h ere rea ll y e nd s i n e teer wor k , art wor k s h ops or ot h er opport un w it h t h e cu l ture." Tour o p erators like Go Ahead Tours c ra entertain as the y teach particip a t ination. e company' s h e l p ensure a mo re i s sometimes p os motorcoach p ac M SC Crui se perien ti a s c a a r t co li b p th e n te ta

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