Mount Kinabalu Park Heritage Site. Photo: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
FIT tour operator Avanti Destinations’ three-year plan to expand its offerings to Asia is off to “a great successful start” mostly because of “the support of travel agents,” managing director for Asia Mark Grundy told a group of travel agents in Huntington, NY earlier this month.
Avanti just completed the first year of its Asian expansion and sales for the region have been robust, Grundy said. Its original six destinations—China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia—sold strong in 2016 and bookings for 2017 have already exceeded those numbers.
The region, one that Grundy calls the fastest growing one in terms of popularity amongst U.S. travelers, is becoming more and more attractive partly due to an increasingly strong U.S. dollar—but also, Grundy said, due to the work of agents.
“We sell our products exclusively through travel agents. It’s something that is built into the company’s DNA,” he said.
Grundy hopes that the new offerings from Avanti—tours in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan—will build on it 2016 success. (Dubai, while not officially offered, is available for pre- or post-tour stopovers, something Grundy said is particularly attractive for east coast travelers).
The new Asian tours include “Indonesia: Private Day in the Life of a Balinese Farmer,” which includes a five-hour tour in Tabanan, learning how to make local dishes and time working in in a field; “Malaysia: Private Kinabalu Park and Poring Hotel Springs Tour,” which includes a drive along mountains road, a walk in the city’s botanical gardens and a soak in a hot spring; and “Philippines: Private Shark Encounter,” which includes a visit to Tumalob Falls and exploration of the jungle around it.
Those new offerings bring the total number of Asia countries available to tour with Avanti to 14, each fully customized and directed by local private guides from the moment travelers arrive, something the tour operator specializes in (Avanti moved 40,000 people globally in 2016, each one on a customizable itinerary).
Each trip also includes everything clients need, from air, rail rental cars and hotels to sightseeing and attraction tickets, transfers and experiential travel options.
As far as agent help, Avanti employs 20 travel consultants for its Asian journeys to assist clients in their travels, so even if a client can’t get in touch with an agent half-the-world-away, they’ll be able to get the assistance they need. Those consultants also can assist agents with personalizing each available tour for their client.
“Avanti is committed to having experts talk to you, the other experts,” Grundy said.