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When describing the Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) brand to prospective clients, many words may come to mind.
“Luxury” surely tops the list. Then there’s “exclusive,” as group sizes max out at 24. It might also be mentioned that the brand is “well-connected,” thanks to its impressive global reach supported by 52 privately owned offices around the world.
But now, travel advisors are encouraged to add a new term to their A&K repertoire: “boutique.”
The new line of 2017 Connections Boutique Small Group Journeys, announced during Virtuoso Travel Week in August, is an expansion to the tour operator’s Connections Journeys and will feature all boutique accommodations and amenities.
While other Connections journeys have featured certain boutique elements, the new line is exclusively boutique and offered at a slightly lower price point. Through this series revamp, the company is hoping to bring a unique type of tour — and client — to the marketplace.
The new journeys will focus on getting clients out of their comfort zones and off the beaten path, while still upholding the elements of luxury that A&K is known for, according to Phil Otterson, president of A&K USA.
“As we looked at ways to define the word ‘boutique,’ we asked, ‘How do you have a boutique marketplace experience? Or a boutique culinary experience or a boutique artist experience?’” he said. “So, we took that word and applied it to those kinds of experiences. We aren’t going to go to a marketplace that has 5 million people standing in it — it’s going to be more intimate, and it’s going to be more local.”
The new itineraries for 2017 include trendy spots such as Iceland and the Amalfi Coast but also under-the-radar destinations such as the Baltics and Helsinki, Finland. Other new destinations include Bavaria, Southern Italy, China, France and the U.K. All will be explored with a heavy emphasis on local interaction and intimate cultural immersion.
“We wanted to recreate and adjust some of the components of this product line so that it would appeal to a consumer who is looking for an upmarket experience,” Otterson said. “Maybe it’s not Hotel Ritz near Plaza Mayor in Madrid, but rather a boutique hotel in a neighborhood that clients probably wouldn’t go to unless they were doing something like this.”
Many of the featured hotels have fewer than 100 guestrooms, are locally owned and are located in trendy neighborhoods but far enough away from the main tourist hub.
“In these hotels, you’ll feel like you’re in somebody’s living room — when you’re actually in the lobby,” Otterson said.
He adds that although A&K veterans will surely enjoy the new journeys, he hopes that new, younger clients who are “sophisticated in knowing what they want” might also take note.
That’s not to say that the enhancements will stray far from what the A&K brand is known for. Group sizes will never exceed 24 people, and all clients will still be led by an A&K resident tour director who has lived in the destination for decades, if not his or her whole life.
“When you’re a high-volume, mass-market operator, you can’t do this,” Otterson said. “You get a couple of groups in a hotel, and you take up half of it. It’s not about load factor and profit; it’s about the way an experience can be delivered when you have a smaller group. It’s comfortable.”