Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica // (c) 2011 Skelastic
These days, the big box motorcoach tours are taking things down a notch. Reduced group sizes enable tour operators to offer more in-depth experiences in a destination. Popular offerings are intimate culinary outings, more active adventures and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Here is a sample of some of the itineraries offered by tour operators who have recently launched small group tours.
Offered by Collette Vacations, Explorations features small group tours of no more than 28 travelers. Currently, there are 15 different itineraries offered that span the globe, including Thailand and Laos, Namibia and Botswana, Italy, Provence and even California. The California’s Wine Country itinerary features San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma Valley where guests discover the secrets to making champagne, meet an artisanal cheese maker and learn the art of pairing wines and food.
Small Group Discoveries
In April Brendan Vacations will launch Small Group Discovery, which will feature three intimate tours in Ireland. The Castel and Manors tour is 11 days and clients visit the historic Dublin Castle, Ballynahinch Castle, the Ring of Kerry and Old Midleton Distillery.
The Tastes and Tales of Ireland, an eight-day itinerary, begins in Dublin and includes the English market in Cork, Queenstown, Ring of Kerry, a stay in Dromoland Castle and more.
Castles, Lighthouses & Pots of Gold features Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains, the Hook Lighthouse, Queenstown and more on a nine-day tour.
In 2009, with the economy stuck in a downward spiral, it may not have seemed like the right time to launch a new tour product, but that didn’t stop Tauck. The tour operator launched Culturious, a new small group product offering intimate tours of fewer than 20 people. Because groups are smaller, these itineraries feature more intimate hotels, dining and touring experiences such as shopping with a chef in Avignon, France and preparing a meal or whitewater rafting in Irazu Volcano National Park.
Tauck’s new brand was so successful, despite the economy, that in 2010, even more tours were launched. Culturious’ new offerings include 12 days in South Africa and Namibia; an eight-day itinerary in Costa Rica; eight days in Provence, France; and Tuscany and the Cinque Terre.
Small group tours sounded like such a good idea to General Tours president, Robert Drumm, that all 41 of its itineraries will be small groups in 2011.
"The positive response of guests when group size diminished during the recession caused us to embrace the concept fully," said Drumm. "Thus, in 2011, every one of our 41 escorted trips is guaranteed at 16 guests or fewer."
With a seemingly endless selection of destinations and touring options – clients can explore Russia by private train – clients can traverse the globe in luxury with the tour operator. Currently, clients can save $600 on a variety of tours, including the eight-day Journey to the Galapagos; the 15-day Across Europe by Riverboat itinerary; the 10-day Historical China, Tibet & the Yangtze trip; the Land of the Penguins, which includes 14 days in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, Argentina, the South Shetland Islands the Antarctic Peninsula and more.