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MAR-APR 2017

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Page 10 of 51 11 M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 7 M A K E G U I D E S E R V I C E O P T I O N A L . Some people book group tours because they enjoy traditional, fully escorted trips that include the services of a professional guide throughout every moment of the day. Others bristle at the idea of being locked into a jam-packed itinerary on a tour and crave free time. Many itineraries attempt to strike a balance between these two camps by integrating some free time into the middle of busy tour days. An even better option, though, is to train guides to give in-depth advice to independent- minded travelers and then turn around and offer a full day of guided activity to the members of the group who prefer a completely escorted experience. For decades, some tour op- erators have offered optional experi- ences to travelers who want to pay more for special activities, longer stays and other perks. These options can be a good way to provide vari- ety to a segmented group, but they sometimes rub travelers the wrong way if they are sold with too much pressure. To avoid this problem, take a service-focused approach to op- tional activities, making them avail- able to people who want them with- out pushing them on the ones who don't. Options shouldn't be seen as an opportunity for upselling or earn- ing extra commissions; instead, they should be all about making custom- ers happy. B E S M A R T A B O U T O P T I O N A L E XC U R S I O N S . Most popular destinations offer more activity options than you could realistically fit into a single tour itinerary, which can leave some travelers disappointed by what they don't get to do. But you can make more activities available to your travelers by breaking up portions of your day into various tracks based on a variety of special interests. You might have a day when people can choose to visit historic attractions, tour some area wineries or go on an extended hike. At the end of the day, bring the group back together for dinner to compare notes on their experiences. If you're an experienced travel planner, you know that flexibility is es- sential for group trips, as emergencies and unexpected events can throw off even the best-made plans. If it's important to be able to appeal to a diverse set of interests during a tour, you need to allow some flexibility on your trip's timing and activities, too. You never know what ideas or special requests someone in your group might have in the middle of a trip, and if you plan some extra time and budget to say yes to those requests, it will go a long way toward making those travelers feel satisfied. P L A N M U LT I P L E T R A C K S . P L A N F O R S P O N TA N E I T Y.

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