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This issue’s cover story, “Must-See South America," outlines some top experiences for travelers. Given the list, it’s easy to see why South America has become such a hot spot. No matter what travelers are interested in, there’s something for them below the equator. If history is your thing, Machu Picchu is certainly on your bucket list. Interested in natural beauty? Check out Iguazu Falls and Patagonia. Looking for a wildlife adventure? A Galapagos or Amazon cruise should do the trick. On and on it goes.
Undoubtedly, South America’s growing popularity is due in part to the fact that it fits into the larger trend of experiential travel that we see throughout the industry. In fact, experiential travel is rapidly becoming a main driver for all travel. With the recent release of Virtuoso’s Active and Specialty Travel (VAST) 2015 catalog, the consortia announced that in 2014, VAST sales — which are primarily adventure and experiential travel — grew by 26 percent over 2013. According to Virtuoso, the VAST catalog “satisfies the growing demand for adventure travel, which has been reported as a dominant trend in Virtuoso’s Luxe Report for the past five years.”
There is such great potential for experience-based, special-interest itineraries in South America that travel agents could probably pick just one or two themes as specialities and make a successful business out of that. For example, if you have a client who enjoys wine tasting in France or Spain, why not suggest a visit to vineyards in Chile or Argentina? By approaching clients not based on where they have gone in the past but rather based on what they are most passionate about, agents have an opportunity to show customers that they understand what is truly important to them. Plus, there are endless opportunities for upselling and cross-selling in this approach.
By thinking of travel planning in terms of experience first, agents can be more creative in their sales techniques. Give it a try — after your tango lesson perhaps.