Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess

Get In on the Guided Tours Game

If you’re not selling guided tours, you should be. They take your clients’ vacation up a notch and give your earnings a nice boost. But if you’re new to the travel category, you may not even know how to get started. Here’s what you need to get in on the guided tours game.

The Experience

What will a guided tour be like? That answer is as varied and diverse as your guided tour options. But overall, “it’s more about the diving into the cultural immersion of a destination, whether that’s a city, country or continent,” says Erik Aiple, director of U.S. Partnership Development for Collette Travel, a leader in world travel and escorted tours.

On a guided tour, travelers don’t just walk through a destination and look at things. That type of tour is definitely an option, but there are also so many opportunities for a deeper connection. Opportunities to savor authentic food, to toast with locally made wine, to interact with the people who really live there. To truly understand what that culture and destination represent.

This experience, according to Aiple, can come from a U.S. state your clients have never visited or from somewhere much farther away. “It could be a domestic trip where the history is only a few hundred years old or it could be going to Egypt where you’re diving into history that’s thousands of years old,” he says.

And no matter how familiar or exotic the destination is, a guided tour can really pump on the volume on an average vacation. “They’ll do things that are off the beaten path. In this day and age with technology at your fingertips, it’s pretty easy to look up the top 10 things in a city,” Aiple says. But going from tourist trap to tourist trap does not give you the genuine vibe of a place. “For us, we’re all about the authenticity of a destination.”

With guided tours, “we want to take it that next step further,” Aiple says, by giving travelers experiences like going to a 900-year-old Tuscan vineyard and spending time with the local family that’s run the vineyard for all of it existence. With guided tours, Aiple recommends that you should always be thinking of how you can provide that experience where your clients are truly diving in to the cultural immersion.

The Planning

When you’re working with your clients on their guided tour, you should have a good understanding of the amount of time it may take to brainstorm and research a tour with them. Aiple says it can take four to six months for agents and their clients to plan a tour. “But it can be closer to a year for some of our larger tours such as Australia and New Zealand or Antarctica,” he says. That’s not necessarily legwork you’ll have to do for your clients, but rather the time it could take them to decide what they want to do.

An important point to consider when researching and planning is your clients’ travel style and how frequently they want to pack and unpack. If they want to stay put for a few nights and “cruise on land,” as Aiple says, you can find options where they’ll stay in the same destination either for the entire duration of the tour or for a big chunk of it, creating a more leisurely experience. If they want to make the most of their time, find a more action-packed tour that hits up a lot of places so they don’t get bored after two nights. A big part of the planning is qualifying your clients, maybe even more so than a traditional sun-and-sand vacation because it can be so personal or a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something.

The Opportunities

For agents, guided tours offer three great opportunities: to have your own amazing experience, to earn high commission and to give your clients more options.

If you’ve never sold guided tours, Aiple has some simple advice: “Try it!” He recommends first trying a guided tour yourself on a fam trip since “it’s always harder to sell something if you don’t know what type of experience it truly is.”

“If that’s not an option, my advice is feel confident in selling the product. Once you find a reputable company, feel confident that the company you’re working with has done their due diligence in being able to identify exactly the type of experience someone would want when going to that destination,” Aiple says.

As far as your earning potential goes, “the most appealing part of a guided tour is not only the value your client is going to receive, but from a commission level, our average commission is $900 per couple,” Aiple says.

Diversifying your product offerings with guided tours is a simple way to further develop your business. Offering guided tours to your clients allows you to round out their vacation packages with a unique and local experience. Sure, memories can be made at a beautiful hotel bar or on the beach of a resort, but how much more memorable will their vacation be if they get to tour a coffee plantation in Costa Rica or sleep under the Northern Lights in Finland? Knowing about these experiences and talking to your clients about them makes it easy for you to further position yourself in the industry, make more money, present more options to your clients and take their vacations from 10 to 11.

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