Amstar DMC, the airport transfer and excursion company that operates throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii, is leaning toward more “authentic” experiences as part of a new slate of tours it expects to roll out into 2023.
This week, during the ALG Vacations Ascend Conference in Cancun, Amstar executives showcased and spoke about the new trend among consumers that draws a more local, authentic flavor into its tour offerings.
Post COVID-19, Amstar saw an increased interest in what Group President Rodrigo Llaguno called “authentic experiences” and it's those experiences that they are planning on bringing to guests.
The company regularly takes the temperature of its guests and travel advisors, and tours that are a “little bit more niche” and brings guests to the more “local” side of destinations have been trending, he said.
In Costa Rica, for instance, guests wanted to be closer to nature, Llaguno said, while elsewhere, in almost every other destination, guests wanted to taste the local flavors outside their resort.
“We try to be very active in hearing and understanding what our customers say,” he added. “The leisure travelers are increasingly demanding a tailored made experience.”
Aside from giving guests access to a more authentic experience, the tours also allow advisors to up their niche offerings and lean into their specialization, no matter what kind of experience or where they are selling vacations.
The menu at Taqueria Coapenito - one of four taquerias that Amstar visits on its Cancun Taco Tour.
“Last year, for most of us it was building back again and getting back to our team and guests,” Llaguno said. “This year, we are really focusing ourselves on tinkering to be much more aligned to those needs.”
Last week at Ascend, media got a preview of one of the new, authentic tours that Amstar is leaning into, a four-location taco tour of Cancun.
The tour brought guests well outside of the hotel zone, into the city’s downtown, away from tourists and all-inclusive resorts to visit four places that are frequented by locals that might not appear in a Cancun guidebook.
Along with an Amstar guide from a partnership with a local DMC, guests were transported via van through Cancun to the doors of four different taquerias—Taqueria Coapenitos, El Pocito Loncheria, Tacos Rigo, and La Parrilla—for a taste of four very different local tacos.
The guide explained the origins of each taco, and the flavors (including heat levels of the salsas on the table), to guests prior to arrival at each location. Guests were all given a taco, along with an optional Mexican drink including beers, Horchata, and sodas, at each location. The point of the tour was not just enjoying good food, but seeing a different side of a city that is mostly known for beautiful resorts and pristine beaches.
The new tours are only one part of Amstar’s continued expansion—last May, the DMC announced a significant expansion to its transportation fleet in the Caribbean and Mexico, adding 150 brand-new vehicles, which made the company the largest of DMC in the regions.