Published online by Travel Agent Central| By Ana Figueroa
Boomer clients may shy away from traditional escorted tours in Europe, but they still appreciate a little hand-holding. Independent travel with a twist may fit the bill. Travel Agent spoke with several tour operators about trends in independent travel and why agents should reach outside their comfort zone when selling Europe.
Tour operator Monograms, part of the Globus family of brands, specializes in the independent travel niche. It’s the fastest-growing brand in the Globus portfolio that includes Avalon Waterways, Globus and Cosmos. Europe is its best-selling destination.
Sales at Monograms were up over 15 percent in 2014, and the company expects to top that by an extra five percent this year, according to Steve Born, vice president of marketing for the Globus brands.
Born tells Travel Agent that the rise in independent travel is spurred by the evolution of the boomer mindset. Boomers, said Born, are used to doing things their own unique way. They’re interested in both support and freedom when they travel. That is, freedom to set their own agenda and schedule. But they also have a healthy respect for experts.
With its hybrid of escorted tour and FIT-style travel, Monograms has found a sweet spot in the market. Agents are still wrapping their heads around it, said Born. But the concept is catching on, as evidenced by Monograms’ sales growth.
Typical Monograms tours combine three-night stays in two or more cities. Guests enjoy the services of a local host to welcome them and get them acquainted with their surroundings. A full- or half-day sightseeing tour is included, with transportation and paid entrance fees. Daily breakfast at the hotel is included as well.
The Monograms local host keeps lobby hours; it’s a bit like a private concierge. Guests can choose optional excursions or explore completely on their own. At the end of the stay, the host accompanies guests to the train station to help them get to the next city. It’s a formula that’s working well, especially in popular packages such as a London-Paris combo.
Destinations such as Ireland are especially known for appealing to independent travelers. Monograms hopes to tap in to the market with a new Ireland by rail tour.