Most of the travel that we book for people is custom, independent travel. Sure, we've booked tours and cruises and all-inclusive resort packages for folks, but we're finding that almost all of the travelers who come to us as clients are looking for authenticity, experiential travel and cultural immersion. This is definitely a trend in the industry. Travelers everywhere are feeling the need to experience travel destinations in depth, to have real interaction with locals and to see what it's like to live there.
The days of sightseeing are over, it seems. I remember on my first trip to Europe as a teenager, taking a picture of the Brandenburg Gate from the window of the tour bus. But that was then. This is now. People don’t just want to do a drive-by of “must-see-sights," these days. They don't want to scratch the surface. They want to do a deep-dive.
Travelers don't want a tour that just stops off for a quick lunch. They expect a culturally-rich culinary experience, using the meal to learn about the local food culture. Or, maybe they want even more than that, like a cooking class. Or wine, whiskey or tequilla tastings. Or a visit to a local market with a local chef. Or a visit to a dairy to sample cheese. Or ice cream!
Recognizing that travelers' expectations have completely changed, the travel industry has completely changed, as well. Tour operators have reduced the size of groups to provide more intimate experiences, allowing travelers to meet local people in a different way. And, of course, smaller groups can go places and do things that wouldn't be possible with a large group.
Cruises are no longer cookie-cutter experiences, either. Each and every cruise line we work with is switching up their itineraries to provide more authentic, immersive experiences, with more time in port, overnight visits to destinations, rich on-board experiences (including lectures, demonstrations and classes), and shore excursions that really focus on the local culture of a destination.
And it's not only the ocean cruise lines that are switching it up. Think that river cruises are staid and boring? Think again.
When we first started Huckleberry Travel, we didn't really see ourselves as travel agents. We'd describe ourselves more like consultants who could facilitate unique, authentic experiences. And that's exactly what we've been doing, even when travelers opt for a tour or a cruise. To have a truly authentic, immersive experience, to get behind the scenes and learn how people live, you'll probably need the help of professionals who know the destination and its people and can arrange the opportunities you're seeking.
We work with tours and cruises that include partnerships with National Geographic, BBC Earth, Ken Burns, and Discovery Channel, to offer some of these tours and cruises. And we've sent clients on an incredible safari in Botswana, on a food and wine tour of Spain and Portugal, on a camel trek into the Moroccan desert to overnight in a Bedouin camp, on a small ship cruise in the Galápagos and on a "behind the scenes" tour of Versailles. And we're hosting a cycling trip next summer through the Loire Valley--biking from vineyard to Chateâu to small village to winery, etc. (Space is still available, by the way.)
We know some people really prefer to research and book their own travel. But, if you're craving a unique, special, rich, authentic experience, we've got the resources and contacts to make that happen for you. So, let us know if we can help!