Touring is the ‘evolution of the travel industry’, say experts

Experience-led travel and touring represents “the evolution of the travel industry”, according to a panel of experts in the adventure sector.

Brian Young, EMEA managing director for G Adventures, reported the company had seen “double-digit growth” in its South Africa and European source markets, and said by the end of October, it would have operated more than 1,000 tours since the pandemic began.

He said: “The sector has grown massively. Traditionally everyone thought of the touring sector as huge coaches – stick up in the air, lots of old people following a tour guide around a city – but it’s so far removed from that.

“It’s experiential. People have had enough of going on holiday and not doing a lot. People are moving on from that, they want to do something different and they want an experience.

“This is why this sector is growing – there’s huge breadth of product, lots of life-changing experiences, from an 18-year-old who wants to travel through Indochina to an 80-year-old bucket-list expedition trip and every single thing in between.

“You’re seeing the evolution of the travel industry and of people’s expectations.”

Young was speaking as part of an insight session from Atas (the Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers) at Global Travel Week, taking place at London’s Kia Oval.

He added that “mass-market” destinations such as Ibiza, Corfu, Crete and Madeira, where G Adventures had added new short-haul product in response to shifting demand caused by the pandemic, had opened up new adventurous options for British travellers.

He added: “In the UK we think of Madeira as [being for] old people going on a winter holiday, but actually in the US marketplace, it’s known as an adventure destination, so there’s a hugely different thought process around it.

“We learnt, as we started to look at all these different places, that there are hidden gems that the UK market is just not aware of.”

Claudia Miguel, director of Turismo de Portugal, said touring and adventure operators were key to helping travellers go beyond the best-known areas and to extending the tourist season outside summer.

She said: “Portugal is mostly known especially in the UK for sun, sea and golf, but we have so many things for tourists to discover in the interior of the country and in the islands. Even in Madeira, [where you can] discover other experiences that really connect to the island.

“Portugal is so much more than the Algarve.

“We have the whole season to sell – it’s not only between June and September, there is a lot to do and enjoy in Portugal and in other destinations. Hotels need to survive, DMCs need to be busy, so this is a very good opportunity.”

Giles Hawke, chief executive for Cosmos, said its programme of off-peak tours had proved popular with both customers and destinations since being launched three years ago.

He said: “We have been doing quite a lot of off-season tours called Globus Escapes and we’re now sending tens of thousands of people on off-season touring holidays to destinations in the winter months.

“Our customers love them, hoteliers love them because they fill the hotels during quiet periods, and you’re going when there are fewer people around. You can go to big sites and you’re not having thousands of people there.”

Global Travel Week, which is run by Travel Weekly’s parent company, Jacobs Media Group, features targeted business meetings alongside memorable networking experiences. It is set to move from London to Oman for its second event, taking place from March 27-30, 2022.