from left: Sean Russo, National Sales Manager at G Adventures, Sheralyn Berry, President of Contiki Canada, and Leigh Barnes, Chief Customer Officer at Intrepid Travel
We asked 3 tour operators these 3 questions about travel in a Covid world
Thursday, August 20, 2020
TORONTO — Travelweek recently went 3 for 3, meaning we asked three top tour operators the same three questions about travel trends and expectations during the industry’s biggest crisis.
Contiki, G Adventures and Intrepid Travel, all companies accustomed to adventure travel, recently spoke with Travelweek about three key topics – demand, fears and health & safety – to help travel agents identify trends and better prepare their clients for the new normal.
Here’s what we learned from Sheralyn Berry, President of Contiki Canada, Sean Russo, National Sales Manager at G Adventures, and Leigh Barnes, Chief Customer Officer at Intrepid Travel:
Which destinations are you seeing pent-up demand for?
Berry (Contiki): “We’ve created some itineraries that will be coming out that are more off the beaten path, in more remote destinations. But we’re also still seeing demand for traditional destinations for 2021; bookings are still coming in the door for Greece, Italy, Peru and Thailand. We also just launched our new local series featuring four Canadian itineraries, geared towards Canadians. A lot of the interest and phone calls and emails are for international travel, but there are also those asking about domestic. This is why we’re super excited to have something to offer Canadians that supports the local economy because let’s admit it, we’ve got to start pumping some money back into Canada.”
Russo (G Adventures): “We are still seeing bookings come in, mostly for 2021 for Canadian travellers. We’re seeing a lot of interest in Europe, particularly our Local Living and Marine travel styles that allow guests to stay in an agriturismo in Italy or sail around the Greek Islands. We’re also seeing interest in once-in-a-lifetime trips such as seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and trekking Everest Base Camp.”
Barnes (Intrepid Travel): “Travellers across the globe are seeking different experiences than before. When looking at Intrepid’s 25 most popular trips for 2021, only 8 carried over from the previous year, while 17 itineraries are new to the list. Overall trends Intrepid is seeing include parents bringing their kids on adventures; families are opting to safari through Botswana, sleep under the stars in Halong Bay and wander through Borneo’s lush jungles. Travellers are also still planning trips with bucket-list experiences such as conquering Everest and tackling the ancient road to Machu Picchu.”
What fears and/or concerns do your clients have right now?
Berry: “In May, during the peak of the pandemic, we went out and surveyed over 1,100 18- to 35-year old Canadians. We found that 93% said that their hygiene and well-being were important to them when considering which companies to travel with. Millennials also said they’re watching how much they spend, so they’re being conscious of money right now. That’s why we created itineraries with a very attractive price point – our Whistler trip starts in the $400 range. We could add more to it but that’ll just drive up the price point and take away the freedom and flexibility for them to do what they want.”
Russo: “In our recent survey to research predicted travel trends post-pandemic, 76% of Canadian travellers said they expect to see travel companies make changes to their health and safety measures. Of those, 52% expect operators to implement physical distancing measures for future travel arrangements, and an overwhelming majority of 92% of respondents also expect increased sanitization and cleaning procedures. It also suggested that 34% of travellers intend to take their next trip with multiple friends and/or family members, creating their own ‘bubble’, so to speak.”
Barnes: “With most people spending a good portion of 2020 indoors, travellers who may have previously opted for an urban setting now want to get out into the wilderness and stay active with tours centered around cycling, trekking and mindfulness. Travellers are putting a lot of thought into where they go and how they travel on their post-COVID-19 trips. Without having the immediate access to explore the world that we once had, planning is becoming more intentional as people are treating travel less as a right, and more as a great privilege.”
How will your trips be different once global operations resume?
Berry: “We’ve taken a real look into how Contiki operates its trips. We’ve introduced a well-being protocol to ensure that our guests are being prioritized with smaller groups, where necessary. We will be asking all our travellers to complete a personal wellness declaration before joining our trips so that our Trip Managers will have real insight into each one of our travellers. From start to finish, guests will travel with their own bubble of Contiki travellers, and all activities and meals will be with these other Contiki guests. So from dinners to cycling and hiking, you’ll be staying within your group. Plus, all of our local suppliers and operators in destination have been vetted by local governments and our operations team. We look at all their hygiene and distancing protocols to make sure they adhere to what we’re following.”
Russo: “Things will be different when travel returns as people’s health and safety and making travellers feel safe and secure will be everyone’s main priority. At G Adventures, we recently launched a Travel with Confidence policy across all our tours, as well as created a new Travel with Confidence Plus Collection of trips, which have even more physical distancing measures in place for added reassurance. We need to be sure to protect each other as well as the people in the places we’re visiting.”
Barnes: “In preparation for travel to resume, we introduced a new Flexible Bookings policy in June to make our travellers feel at ease when booking their trips. The policy permits changes to travel plans 21 days before a scheduled departure, allowing for new travel dates or an entirely different trip, with no change fees. And to ensure the safety of travellers, all Intrepid trips will now be operated under new Safe Travel protocols developed and endorsed by the World Travel & Tourism Council. Additional measures, in line with government health advice and with global health authorities, will include enhanced sanitation, contactless technology solutions, physical distancing across accommodation, transport and restaurants as well as pre-trip and on-trip health screenings.”
To read more of our interview with Contiki, G Adventures and Intrepid Travel, including how millennials are expected to play a role in travel & tourism’s recovery, check out the lead story in Travelweek’s Aug. 20 issue here.
For more information about each respective company’s policies and operations updates, go to:
Deputy Editor at Travelweek
Cindy is Deputy Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 2007. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Kenya, Morocco, Thailand and Turkey among her favourite destinations.
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