Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
In this issue’s cover story, “French River Cities”, we take a look at three great French cities — Lyon, Avignon and Bordeaux — in a country that year after year is one of the most popular destinations for tourism.
In addition to being top hot spots in their own right, the places we profile are also key ports on most French river cruise itineraries. Like so many places in Europe, France is seeing a boom in river cruising, with more ships being added all the time. River cruising’s popularity is due in part to its ability to give passengers easy access to places such as these towns in the interior of countries where travelers can truly experience the heart of Europe.
As more clients choose to take river cruises, it’s worth keeping in mind the draw of visiting small towns and villages. Travelers are looking for authentic destinations away from the well-worn tourist trail where they can get a taste for what life is like for locals. Sometimes they quite literally want a “taste” of that life, as local food and wine are a major part of the experience in many of these areas.
While river cruising is one way for visitors to see these towns, it is, of course, not the only way. Land tours and FIT trips, especially when combined with a villa stay, are also popular. These trips tend to be complicated to arrange and, fortunately for agents, many travelers understand that they need expert advice.
In particular, any clients returning from a river cruise should get a follow-up call from their agent to find out how the cruise might have inspired thoughts about their next trip. If clients enjoyed the river cruise but are thinking that next time they would like to do a self-drive trip, for example, the agent can help arrange that. Or, perhaps the client is now looking for an ocean cruise in a different part of Europe, or maybe an escorted tour. Regardless of the request, the agent is ready to assist.
If you can help a client visit a charming, off-the-beaten-path region of Europe where he or she can feel like a local, that’s a success — helping you earn both respect and repeat business. Best of all, it shows your customers you “get it,” and you truly understand what they are looking for in a vacation.