The Globus family of brands, which comprises Globus, Cosmos, and Avalon, celebrates 95 years in business in 2023. The company, which started with one man and a rowboat on a lake in Switzerland will offer 7,000 tour departures (across both Globus and Cosmos) and 500 Avalon Waterways' departures this year alone.
Travel Market Report spoke to CEO Scott Nisbet to talk about the company's history and how touring has changed over the past 95 years.
Local Sites with Local Guides
From its earliest days, one principle has guided everything Globus does: show visitors the world through local eyes.
That's what Antonio Mantegazza was doing when he took visitors out on his rowboat in Lake Lugano to see the sites back in 1928.
"What he did back then is, in some ways, what we still do. It's local people telling the stories of the destination," Nisbet told TMR. "We still do that today with our tour directors and cruise directors who are local."
Part of seeing places through a local perspective involves visiting the iconic sites, but also going off the beaten path, he added.
"If you were a business in Lugano, maybe you walked the shores of the lake [with visitors], but you didn't always get on the lake. So this kind of unique, beyond the must-see experience is still in our DNA and what we do today."
From boat rides on Lake Lugano, Mantegazza expanded to tour buses of Switzerland and then to other European countries.
Thus was born the multi-country bus tour concept that has remained the core of Globus' business. Over time, the company expanded to offer 12 different ways travelers can tour with the company, including by river with the addition of Avalon Waterways in 2004.
Evolution, no matter the industry, doesn't occur in a vacuum and one of the leading drivers of change for the tour industry in general and Globus, specifically, has been the transformation in how people want to travel.
"Boomers and Gen Xers, they want to travel in a different way than the GI (Greatest) Generation," Nisbet explained. "People travel more. There's a longer list of places they want to go see. That's why we are not just doing Europe anymore."
People also want to see more of a destination.
"They don't want to just do a city a day and say they've done Europe."
For much of its history, Globus' most popular tours were these so-called panorama tours, which might visit three or four countries in a single tour. Today's the company's most popular tours visit one country and provide more in-depth exploration.
"The pace of the tour has slowed down a bit," Nisbet added.
No more one night here, one night there. Today's tours spend two or even three nights in a single spot.
Similarly, today's tour-goer, particularly Gen Xers, wants more flexibility while on tour.
"We did some research on Gen Xers. They like the ease and value [of touring] but they didn't like how they perceived it to be not flexible… So we created Choice Touring, which creates flexibility within the trip. Every couple of days, you get choices… you get to tailor make your own experience."
Another change? Travelers want to come back to see the same country again. For instance, a client might have started with an Italy tour that focused on Rome, Florence, and Venice. Now, they want to come back and focus on a region, perhaps Umbria or Puglia. To serve returning guests, Globus introduced Undiscovered Touring itineraries in 2018.
Panoramic Touring Remains a Gateway
While the popularity of the panoramic Europe tour has waned over the years, they remain a top choice for first-time visitors to Europe.
"That's still an entry point for our brand," Nisbet said.
It's even popular among some younger travelers.
"We have one [panorama] Cosmos tor where the average age is 46 years old," he added.
Many of these travelers will return to Europe on single-country tours, or they'll want to go someplace outside of Europe.
But there will also always be people who only have one Europe trip in them, Nisbet said. "They want to see the Eiffel Tower. They want to see the Coliseum and they want to see Big Ben."
Selecting the Right Tour Product
We asked Nisbet, with 12 different touring options to choose from, how do travel advisors know which one to put their clients on?
As with almost everything travel advisors do, it starts with asking questions.
"Start with the destination and then ask additional questions to see how they want to travel," Nisbet said. "What do you want to do in Spain? Do you want religious travel in Spain and do the Camino? Do you want to do a Choice Tour of Spain where you have choices every few days? Do you want to go off-season to Spain? If it's your second trip to Spain, do you want to dive a little deeper into a region?"
Having a broad portfolio of options is what allows Globus to meet the needs of most advisors' clients no matter the answers to the above questions. It also makes life easier for advisors, Nisbet emphasized.
"We have one system you have to learn. We have one set of policies. We have one business development manager who's there for you, who can support you on touring, on river cruising."
Role of Travel Advisors & What's Next
According to Nisbet, travel advisors have been a part of Globus' business since the "very early days" and "really have been the lifeblood of our company for 95 years."
Back when Globus was getting started with panoramic tours of Europe, these trips were dream trips that participants wanted to get just right. For that they needed experts to help, not only with planning but also for validating their decisions.
"That's why they like travel advisors. They want to make sure it's right. They want to talk to that objective third party," Nisbet said.
He doesn't see that changing any time soon. If anything, he said, having a travel advisor to help people navigate todays' travel complexities is "more important than ever."
Advisors figure into the Globus family of brands' future plans too.
"We're going to continue to develop tools for travel advisors, self-serve marketing tools, booking tools to make it easy, supporting them in any way we can with our travel agency portal enhancements that we're working on."
As for what's on the horizon in terms of Globus products, Nisbet doesn't foresee adding any new styles of touring, but said they'll continue to develop new destinations. For instance, they have plans to expand in Finland and Malta.