“Value cannot be measured in dollars and cents,” says travel designer Susan Farewell, owner of Farewell Travels and regular contributor to Recommend. Nadya Phelan, Europe product manager for Goway Travel, agrees, noting that, “Regardless of budget, everyone wants to feel they are receiving value for their dollar.” She adds that, “The term value is one of the most used terms in tourism today; it is said as frequently as the term ECO was 10 years ago.”
Phelan says one of the best ways for agents to get their clients a good value experience is by setting group departures. “Setting departure group travel tends to add value to trips, the price may seem overwhelming at times, but it is looking at the inclusions that provide some of the best value. They can then budget better for what they will spend in the destination, and the quality of the services, knowledge of the guide is controlled. They need to realistically approach us with a budget. Once we have a budget, we can really narrow down options and desires for what the client wants to experience.”
What Do Clients See as Value?
Farewell says her clients find value in VIP access to experiences they wouldn’t otherwise be able to attain. Such as “access to private homes for home-cooked meals and meeting the locals. Having dinner with a local artist or winemaker. Access to certain museums off-hours, or to a gallery exhibit opening. Or access to local experiences such as having your child play soccer with a local league in Spain. It’s one thing if these are ‘canned’ touristic experiences,” she adds. “Another, if the agent is able to set up private arrangements for families, couples or individuals. The value comes with how resourceful, connected and confident your travel designer (or travel agent) is.”
These types of experiences are what’s at the top of every agent’s list when it comes to value travel. As Lynn Ciccarelli with Cassis Travel Services, Inc., a Virtuoso member, puts it, her clients are looking for “authentic interactions with locals.” They’re searching, she says, for “something no one else they know has done before. Or sometimes it’s just a dream destination that they want to do but have no clue how to put it together.”
And, she points out, “All clients want value for money spent. Effortlessly traveling from place to place without stress.”
Luxury + Value = Experience
“All clients are looking at experiential travel,” says Phelan, “however, we find luxury clients are looking more in-depth at experiences that they would like to have. The dollar value is not necessarily what drives the sale, but it is the experiences that are offered. Staying in a castle for a private tour visiting the D-Day beaches from Paris to track down ancestors’ graves are some examples we are asked for by our luxury clientele. For some, the simplicity of the space in a first class flight or a first class train ticket is considered incredible value. Or a private cooking lesson, or VIP tour of the Vatican. These are the experiences that luxury travelers are looking for.”
Ciccarelli adds, “It’s why they use a travel planner. I work in the luxury segment and because they have money does not mean they don’t want value. I believe that is what I give them—a memorable experience. That has value. When a client seeks out my advice it is an honest assessment of what would make them happy.”
Phelan doesn’t leave any corner of Europe unaccounted for when it comes to offering a value vacation to your clients. She says, “There is great value to be had in Europe. All trips to the United Kingdom (UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) can be considered great value right now as their currency, the pound, sits low so it’s a great value to the U.S. dollar. This means that we aren’t finding heavy exchange rates that we have traditionally had between the UK currency and the U.S. dollar. However, it is not always the cheapest destination, but great value. “Places like Germany, and especially Berlin, is a destination that is known for good value, or heading into somewhere like Prague and Budapest is still a great option for people on a budget. However, we can still find great value in places like Spain, Italy and Portugal.” She adds that, “Timing is everything; we can find value in all budgets, however, knowing the budget and having the flexibility of when someone can travel can truly provide the best value for the passengers. Visiting at the off season will stretch a budget further than traveling in the busy months.”
Vanessa Parrish, Globus Family of Brands’ channel marketing manager, says, “For 2018, Cosmos introduced a new series of tours called Undiscovered Italy. The beauty of the less-traveled areas of Italy is what you’ll find more of on Cosmos’ Undiscovered Italy tours—more intact ancient architecture, more wide-open views and more local immersive experiences—all at an incredible value,” she notes.
Phelan adds, “Our best offers are early, we are great at finding last-minute deals, but we know that the hotspots in Europe book up quickly and availability can be an issue, so we recommend booking early. Once booked, stop searching, be comfortable with what you are paying and the experiences you will have. There may be a better deal on something different that doesn’t include as many options or isn’t the same tour you are doing, or it may be more expensive. Or you may find a new destination. It is a gamble and can take away from your experience or take away from someone else’s on the tour, when you say what a great deal you got.”
What Tours to Book?
Parrish says value-friendly trips are out there. “Great, value-friendly options DO exist. It’s important to choose a reputable partner with a long history.”
Goway’s Phelan suggests that “when it comes to dollar value, our seat in coach programs like our Flavour of Ireland or a tour like our Island Hopping Scotland for 15 days from Edinburgh, and our Norwegian Cruise Line cruises can provide incredible value. We also offer the ability to customize the pre and post, which makes it a unique experience for the clients.”
To help your clients get more bang for their buck, as they say, Parrish points to a few of Cosmos’ tours: “We have several tours in Europe in our Undiscovered Italy series that are priced under $1,000 such as: Apulia, the Heel of Italy and The Magic of the Italian Lakes, in addition to other popular Europe destinations, including Rome, Florence, Venice; Postcards from Portugal; Lisbon, Seville & Madrid; Prague, Vienna & Budapest; Irish Explorer; Best of the Netherlands and Highlights of Morocco—all under $1,000 pp.”
Cosmos’ 8-day Gourmet Tuscany tour, for example, calls Montecatini home as travelers go on daily explorations to the surrounding areas of Tuscany—from the rolling hills of Montalbano to Vinici, traversing vineyards, olive groves, and chestnut trees, and visiting the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci. Other stops include the Chianti Valley and the Etruscan Coast to visit quaint wine shops, cafes, and a traditional butcher shop, museums and historic estates. Guests will indulge in all that is Tuscan fare, while also participating in an Italian cooking lesson, shopping for fresh ingredients at a local market, sampling artisan-crafted chocolates and learning the art of Italian dessert-making. Rates start at $1,389 for travel in July and August 2018.
Parrish adds that, “Cosmos offers travelers an ample amount of free time to explore
the destination—and their passions—on their own.”
Booking with Trafalgar’s CostSaver can also get your clients a good value while diving into Europe’s cultural side. For example, the 15-day European Adventures End London itinerary takes guests to 13 cities, including Amsterdam, Prague, and Venice, as well as Paris, Nuremberg and Munich. The itinerary includes accommodations for 14 nights, 17 meals, and on trip transportation starting at $2,075 pp (that’s $138 pp pd).