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This issue’s cover story, “Travel By Design,” covers one of the most important developments in adventure travel planning: customization. This is the No. 1 trend identified by adventure travel suppliers in the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s “2016 Industry Snapshot.” In addition, the tour operators surveyed say 55 percent of customized trips are built entirely from scratch.
I wasn’t in the travel industry 30 years ago, but from stories I’ve heard, it sounds like much of the job back then consisted of matching travelers with the right package. If that’s even remotely correct, then it’s truly a different world today.
“Everyone has their own hopes as to what they want out of their trip, and we will work with clients to craft an itinerary specific to their needs,” said Connor Frey, private group and FIT manager for Intrepid Travel. “We offer suggestions based on our experience in that particular region, but if they have a special request or spin they want to put on the trip, we really enjoy making that dream a reality.”
This style of traveling presents agents with a major opportunity — and a significant challenge. There are a lot of moving parts to booking this kind of vacation. Custom trip planning requires expertise, reliable partners, local networks and more. But, most of all, it takes a human touch to do it properly.
In order for today’s agents to really stand out, they have to know their clients’ travel goals, select the right suppliers to work with and pay attention to the details. Doing an in-depth consultation with a client before contacting suppliers will not only better service the customer, but it can help the agent earn respect from the supplier, too.
Ultimately, as this type of vacation experience becomes the norm, agents who are unwilling to put in this level of effort will lose out — giving them plenty of time to dream about the good old days.