Tour Talk: Collette

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Collette offers tours to Cuba, with a visit to Havana.
Collette offers tours to Cuba, with a visit to Havana.
Collette Vacations, which has been offering high-value escorted tours for almost 100 years, has hit the refresh button, dropping the word “Vacations,” and going simply by Collette.

“Among our many changes for 2014,” explains Dan Sullivan Jr., Collette’s president and CEO, “is a revamped logo and tagline, for we felt that streamlining the name to Collette better reflects the journey travelers take on our tours that go far beyond a vacation.” Collette’s new website also has a new look, including an “Experience this Tour” feature whose expanded specific content, vivid imagery and video are designed to give a sense of place to each journey.

With 160 guided tours in the marketplace, Collette is enjoying the recent upsurge in industry tour sales. “In 2013, the company experienced a second consecutive year of record-breaking revenue and double-digit growth,” Sullivan reports. “We don’t have a real strong uptick in any area of the globe, for all areas are doing very well and we have lots of product for clients.” In 1995, the company’s leading destination area was the U.S. and Canada; today North America accounts for 30 percent of the bookings—with national parks travel booming—while Italy, Great Britain and Ireland are tops in international bookings. Russia is very strong, he adds, as are Australia and New Zealand.

Another top-selling destination tour is Collette’s Cuba—A Cultural Exploration program. It has been consistently strong—selling out most departures—since it launched three years ago. This year, 37 departures are scheduled for the 9-day itinerary that spends three nights in Trinidad and four nights in Havana. The journey’s special features include dinner with a Cuban family; a sugar estate visit with lunch; a choral performance at the Tomas Terry Theater; a visit to a ceramics studio and to the farmlands aboard a steam train; touring the Cuban Fine Arts Museum; and staying at the famous Hotel Nacional, a Cuban icon. The tour is priced from $3,794 pp dbl, plus air.

Added this year to Collette’s guided tours to more than 50 destinations on seven continents is Panama, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. The new 9-day tour, Discover Panama: Explore a Cultural Crossroads, is full of special experiences, such as a cruise through part of the Canal, travel by dugout canoe to an Embera indigenous village, shopping at the crafts market in Anton Valley, and staying at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. The tour is priced from $1,699 pp dbl.

While Collette’s tour pricing does not include airfare, when air travel on any tour is booked through the company, the company’s Door to Door service kicks in, and clients receive a complimentary roundtrip home with airport sedan service. This value-added service is available in U.S. cities within a 50-mile radius of more than 90 U.S. gateways.

During our conversation, Sullivan didn’t commit to any new destinations for 2015, but rather indicated that there would be enhanced South America itineraries, adding longer stays in Patagonia to Argentina and Chile tours; expanding Spain’s guided tours to the north of the country; and working with an Asia route linking Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Borneo. That should bring the total guided tour count up to about 180, keeping Collette in the position of the United States’ largest operator of guided tours.

And selling those tours? Sullivan reports that travel agents make up 90 percent of all company bookings, pointing out that “we invest in our travel agent partners. In addition to a ‘find-an-agent’ in your area link on our website, our Partnership Plus program ranges from co-op brochures and mailings to hands-on support in developing small group travel. “With the help of 75 outside sales representatives, we work closely with agents to help develop their group business with their local senior center, bank, church group, alumni and garden club. We produced over $45 million in group sales specifically through travel agencies last year.”

contact information

Collette: (800) 340-5158;