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A cruise industry veteran, Adam Armstrong recently made the switch to escorted touring. As the new CEO of Contiki — a brand under The Travel Corporation (TTC) that targets travelers ages 18 to 35 — he is ready to lead the brand toward innovation and growth.
Here, Armstrong outlines the best ways for travel agents to connect with and book trips for younger travelers in 2021.
What do travelers and advisors need to know about traveling with Contiki right now?Our itineraries and schedules have been impacted similarly to every other operator this year. We are hopeful and planning to start operating our immersive experiences beginning Dec. 1, and we are getting a fair amount of future bookings. We have implemented the same hygiene and well-being protocols as our sister brands (Trafalgar, CostSaver, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold and African Travel, Inc.). We have also worked closely with the World Travel and Tourism Council and other organizations to define and vet these protocols, and have already begun extensive training for Trip Managers so they are fully informed.
We also have some incredible, innovative and new experiences on offer. For example, small-group walking tours in cities such as Berlin, with a Syrian immigrant sharing his stories; or incredible, heartstopping activities like a massive swing over Amsterdam that’s exclusive to Contiki. We also just completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of our amazing Chateau in the Beaujolais region in France, which is now as cool and contemporary as any lifestyle hotel. We have also invested in new mobile technology to ensure contactless and touchless experiences with My Contiki, where travelers can now pre-book all of their optional extras.
We also have compelling new offers to help advisors entice and convert young travelers to book Contiki. Our “Freedom Guarantee” comprises flexible booking conditions, a low $99 deposit, no change fees and the ability to pay overtime with no interest rate. We will operate private groups and bubbles just like our sister brands. We are also launching fantastic new four-day trips under the travel style “Detour.”
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing tour operators right now?We have seen a lot of research, and you see it in the news every day — young people are traveling. Most young people are not concerned about catching the virus, and most young people recover fully and quickly. So, there is no doubt in our minds that young travelers will bounce back first, and you’ll see more bookings from them than any other demographic. This is the perfect time to get behind supporting and selling Contiki.
The biggest challenge we have is travel advisors having a better understanding of the incredible experiences we offer today. Having come from the ocean cruise lines, I’m so surprised that some advisors seem more concerned with how many people are going to be on a tour, yet no one asks about how many people are going to be on an ocean cruise. Why don’t travel advisors better support touring? We are so right for these times. A small group is not just 10 people. Compared to a 5,000-passenger cruise ship, a Contiki group of 35 or 40 people is miniscule. That’s our biggest challenge, frankly.
How is Contiki supporting travel advisors during this time? Travel advisors can expect the same support with Contiki as they get from TTC’s other brands. This includes tools for our trade partners to educate, train and inspire. Examples include our Contiki University (for e-learning); our advisor portal, where advisors can download and access marketing materials; and our great new webinars to help advisors sell in this virtual world.
Most young people are not concerned about catching the virus, and most young people recover fully and quickly. So, there is no doubt in our minds that young travelers will bounce back first.
What does the future look like for Contiki? What changes do you plan to make as CEO?We have these new three- to four-day trips that we have launched with this current environment in mind, and we think many young people will find them attractive. We also have new “Limited Edition” itineraries that are focused on various lifestyle choices today, from tours for vegan eaters to trips for the LGBTQ+ community.
We are also evolving new experiences to support the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities around the world.