Customization in Travel Is More Important Than Ever

USTOA members look to add unique offerings and options to tour itineraries around the world By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West

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Learn about culinary travel in Taiwan in this issue's cover story.

In this issue’s cover story, “Memories From the Culinary Kingdom,” you can read about travel to Taiwan. It has become an ideal choice for travelers with a wide range of interests, including adventure, culinary travel, cultural history and more. The variety of available options makes the country a great destination for travel agents, who can match the location to a client’s preferences.

Last month, I attended the U.S. Tour Operators Association’s (USTOA) annual conference. I always learn a lot by talking to USTOA members at the event. Most years, there are one or two destinations that everyone is talking about; this year, however, the hot topic seemed to be not where people are going, but how they are traveling. Tour operators are focused on infusing itineraries with specialized niche travel, authentic experiences, VIP access and more customized offerings.

For instance, one company is adding a far-flung destination this year: Iran. Some of the customers that have signed up for the trip have even sent the tour company a list of the foods they want to try while there, so the operator is developing a culinary aspect to the tour, too.

Another brand wants to be known for offering the most authentic vacations in Europe. It is only hiring employees who have lived in Europe at some point — because the company focuses on providing authentic, local experiences.

From big companies to small operators, USTOA members are finding ways they can stand out from the crowd and appeal to travelers’ special interests and desires. And this is a message that agents should pay attention to as well.

Today’s clients are prioritizing travel based on how they want to experience the destination. It’s not enough for agents to simply handle the logistics of a trip; they need to be able to offer customers a range of options that fit — or, better yet, exceed — their expectations. Tour operators are doing their part to help with this challenge, but it’s important for agents to learn all they can about today’s ever-evolving tour itineraries. Coming up with that creative, personal touch to add to a vacation might be the key to making a client for life.

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