Tour guides and cruise directors can make or break a travel experience.
The difference between an ordinary vacation, and an unforgettable one, usually relies on the traits of a good leader. Someone enthusiastic and professional, who knows everything there is to know about a destination, and excels at making travellers feel welcome.
Tour operator Globus family of brands gets this, which is why the company has flown its top tour leaders in Europe, over to Canada, to participate in a multi-city roadshow that’s on now until Feb. 15.
“We've had travel advisors interact with our guides, and we've been told that we have the best in the industry,” said U.S.-based Camille Olivere, chief sales officer at Globus family of brands, speaking to PAX Tuesday night (Jan. 30) at the series kick-off at Toronto’s Old Mill event space.
“We have a great sales team, and I can talk all I want, but to hear it from the tour guides – this is their life's passion,” Olivere explained. “No one brings what we do to life like the people who actually do the tours.”
21 Canadian cities
Globus’ 2024 roadshow will visit 21 Canadian cities from coast to coast.
The series was designed for both travel advisors and consumers – the idea is for travel professionals to bring their clients to the events so they can learn more about the 96-year-old tour operator, which includes the Globus, Cosmos and Avalon Waterways brands.
The roadshow will feature presentations by Globus BDMs, but the majority of the content will be delivered by the company’s tour leaders in Europe.
Speaking at Tuesday night’s Toronto event – which drew almost 50 attendees, and is one of three events happening in the Greater Toronto Area – was Tony Campailla, an Italy-based cruise director for Avalon, the company’s river cruise arm.
Events in Western Canada, meanwhile, will feature Katy Huyskens, an Avalon cruise director from Belgium.
12 ways to tour
In the touring world, Globus’ competitive advantage lies in the fact that it has 12 different travel styles, Olivere told PAX.
“We're 52 per cent of the guided touring market,” she said. “And because of that, we have something for everyone.”
The tour operator currently operates on six continents, in 71 countries, and offers a total of 543 vacations.
Whether it’s classic tours, independent adventures, small group itineraries, value-minded vacations, custom touring or river cruises, the aim at Globus is to match travellers with their passions – and make life a little easier for travel advisors.
“[An advisor] might be an FIT expert in Italy, but if their customers want to go to Scandinavia, we can step in and help. We have all the relationships, globally,” Olivere said.
A Globus tour typically provides 4+ star accommodations, luxury coaches, and plenty of meals and inclusions.
Cosmos, on the other hand, is value-oriented, geared towards those who aren’t fussy about where they stay (just as long as it’s clean) and care more about exploring a destination, with flexibility.
Hotels on a Cosmos tour, for example, might be located on the outskirts of a city (whereas a Globus-booked hotel is in the heart of it all).
The latest trends
As the travel industry begins a new year, tours are seeing “strong performance everywhere,” Olivere shared.
“Everyone wants to do Italy and we're seeing a lot of Japan,” she said, speaking on the latest trends.
As far as sales go, Canada is “a little behind” compared to the United States, but that’s in line with most countries that were closed for long periods of time during the pandemic, Olivere said.
Still: “Canada's trajectory is super strong this year,” she said.
And despite the strong demand for small group tours, traditional big-bus packages are still selling well, she said.
“People prefer smaller groups, but there's so much value in traditional guided touring,” she explained, noting Globus’ “VIP access.”
Because the company has been around for so long, Globus customers sometimes get preferred treatment on tours (like at the Vatican, which will open early for Globus tours, before the general public).
As for the bus part, the company aims to minimize travel times on the road – even if their spacious buses’ have large windows.
“We want people to spend the majority of their time immersing themselves in cultures,” Olivere said.
Avalon “more booked than ever”
That’s land-based touring. Globus’ river cruising business, via Avalon Waterways, is a different tune – and it’s also selling well.
“Avalon is more booked than ever,” Olivere shared.
Driving business, these days, is Avalon’s big Portugal debut on the Douro River, which comes with an all-new itinerary – an eight-day Vida Portugal: Vineyards & Villages Along the Douro, beginning and ending in Porto – and Suite Ship, the Avalon Alegria.
Living up to its name (which, in Portuguese, means “happiness”), the 102-passenger Alegria – like all Suite Ships – will feature Panorama Suites on two full decks, offering 200 sq. feet of living space, open-air balconies, beds with river views and a Sky Deck pool for all.
“It’s a little bit smaller – it needs to be, it’s a requirement for navigating the Douro – so there’s fewer guests,” Olivere said of the ship.
The Douro voyages, which launch April 3, have been selling so well, Avalon added three additional sailings towards the end of the year to meet the demand, Olivere noted.
“We’re one of the smaller players in river cruising, but advisors call us ‘the best-kept secret,’” she said.
New river coming in 2025
Looking ahead, Avalon will add a new river to its portfolio in 2025, said Olivere, who stayed tight-lipped when PAX asked where.
What she did share was that it’s a “popular” river in a country that Avalon currently operates in, and that it will involve a ship that’s already part of the brand’s fleet.
In other words, stay tuned.
As for whether Avalon will run cruises during the upcoming Paris Olympics – PAX, last month, tried to get a sense of what companies were going to do on the Seine this summer – Olivere said the company is still in wait-and-see mode.
Travel, without the groups
Back on land, Independence by Globus is one of the company’s newest offerings.
Introduced in 2022 (and designed to sunset the Monograms brand), it’s a style of travel that allows guests to enjoy the benefits of touring – except on their own, without a group.
Customers do, however, have access to a local expert who can help them figure out just how they want to spend their vacation.
“You have a point person, but you're not being taken around to multiple destinations,” Olivere explained. “You have free time, Globus-negotiated rates and the Globus confidence in the hotels you stay in.”
As for the market’s post-COVID confidence in touring, that has come roaring back, Olivere said.
Especially among boomers, who were (arguably) one of the last groups to return to travel.
“People want to travel. They feel like something was taken away from them for two, three years. They want to get back at it,” Olivere said.
For the trade
For travel advisors, Globus pays commission at the point of final payment, and with groups, agents can use TCs as profit to pay for escorted tours through the company’s rewards program.
Globus also has appealing travel incentives for the trade. “If you have one booking, you can do a trip with us at a very, very discounted rate,” Olivere said.
See Globus’ travel agent portal here.
The company is focused on supporting the trade, especially because "there’s a lot of newcomers,” Olivere said, noting that Globus has built a team to specifically serve new agents.
Her top tips for selling tours and river cruises in 2024?
“Take advantage of your BDM. The sales team is there to help grow your business,” Olivere said.
And secondly: “Do something your passionate about.”
“If you’re passionate about a destination, your guests are going to feel that and they're going to want to go,” she said.
To register for one of Globes' upcoming roadshow events, click here.