Travel agents logging on to avantidestinations.com will find the opening message reads: “Thank you for dropping by,” a cordial welcome to a website that aims to assist agents in making travel arrangements simple, creative and profitable. “And we have been doing that since 1981,” according to Avanti Destinations’ new owner and executive chairman Paul Barry, “providing the unparalleled travel content, flexible FIT packaging and innovative technology that goes into delivering the customized, seamless vacation experience that every client wants today.” Almost four decades later, Avanti’s destinations are Europe, which accounts for about 80 percent of the tour operator’s business, while Latin America delivers 13 percent and Asia amounts to 7 percent.
A 35-year travel industry veteran, Barry sold his company, European Express, 10 years ago, and as of last summer took over Avanti Destinations as sole owner from founder Harry Dalgaard. And we didn’t have to wait long for new happenings. While independent travel specialist Avanti has long done custom tours only for groups under 16—mostly family and friends—Barry and his team were recently in New York to introduce a new Custom Groups Department primed to service trips for groups up to 100, working with travel agent groups from sports teams, school and alumni groups to those wanting to attend special events and performances. “Because every group has its own idea of what they want to do and where they want to go, I see our Custom Groups Department as an extension of our independent travel brand, where no two Avanti vacations are the same,” says Barry. “I have personally assembled a team with many years’ experience handling custom group bookings and enjoying the tremendous in-depth destination knowledge for which this company is known. I expect the department to grow significantly in the next year and beyond.”
Travel trade newswires have been abuzz with another innovation, Avanti Journeys, a departure from the company’s trademark customizable packages designed for independent traveler flexibility. This product features 14 air-inclusive packages, designed to deliver low cost and ease of purchase. Journeys’ fixed itineraries include roundtrip air from the U.S., hotel, all land or air transfers between and within destinations, as well as sightseeing tours, activities and add-on products. This Avanti offering includes nine Journeys to Europe; three different Journeys to Latin America, such as the 16-night Andean Experience visiting Peru, Bolivia and Chile; and two to Asia including an 11-night Past & Present of Japan and Thailand, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Journeys were launched this year along with 43 new Go365 itineraries—27 in Europe, seven in Central and South America and nine in Asia—all customizable by adding more nights, activities, transfers or destinations. Many of those in Europe focus on less-touristed destinations such as Turin, Lisbon and Zagreb, while those Asia and the Americas provide a bevy of options for warm-weather vacations in winter.
In carrying on tradition, Chairman Barry shares a culinary passion with departed foodie and founder Dalgaard, and continues to expand Avanti’s Local Flavors, the epicurean travel niche that the company has cultivated throughout most of its destinations. For instance, in Central and South America advisors can offer two food-focused vacations in Peru, Chile and Argentina, and nine add-on gastronomic experiences including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica. Slated for special treatment is the new Local Flavors in Great Britain campaign, launched early this year in cooperation with VisitBritain and focused on four culinary hubs: London, Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Cornwall/Devon. “Nothing else conveys a sense of place like a destination’s food and drink,” says Barry, “and this ongoing partnership with VisitBritain is a great fit for our expertise in creating food-focused travel experiences that travel agents can offer to their independent travelers. Hence, our joint campaign has expanded to include five new customizable food- and drink-themed itineraries to Wales and Cumbria.”
Each suggested itinerary ranges from three to eight days, comes with a rental car, and can be combined with a stay in London, or a different British culinary destination. Agents can access all-new educational materials on the six featured regions and their 14 itineraries through the Local Flavors in Great Britain digital microsite, e-brochure and print flyers to learn about the diverse food and drink experiences available across England, Scotland and Wales.
For more information, visit avantidestinations.com.