Collette is rolling out more than 20 new tour programs for 2020, bringing its total number of offerings to more than 190 tours in five distinct travel styles in more than 50 countries on seven continents. This year’s crop of new products is about twice as large as in most years.
The expansion is the result of a year of concentrated work by the product development team following the promotion of Jaclyn Leibl-Cote from executive vice president of product development to president in June 2018. At the time of her promotion, Leibl-Cote told Travel Market Report that her main focus going forward would be to expand the Explorations line. And the expansion for 2020 reflects that objective.
“The focus here is primarily to grow Explorations, which is our small group brand,” Ana Rooney, Collette’s director of product design, told Travel Market Report. “We relaunched Explorations and have been focusing more on that brand and ensuring that we have a bigger wealth of product destination-wise for that brand. So, the majority of our new products are within that brand.”
Exploration and experience
Explorations is a small group tour product line the company introduced in 2008 to appeal to a growing demand for tours with smaller, more intimate groups and more independence than in Collette’s traditional Classic tours. The Explorations line is defined by smaller group size and a shift to fewer structured activities and more free time.
For 2019, the company relaunched Explorations and re-engineered the formula, intensifying the original product concept by making the groups even smaller — making itineraries more leisurely with a wider range of personal choices and options, more authentic and interactive experiences, and tighter focus on smaller regions.
Collette’s Classic tour line roughly targets a 55-75-year old clientele. The Explorations line stretches that demographic on the younger end by appealing to more adventurous and independent travelers. The targeted age range for Explorations is approximately 45-65.
But it’s less about age and more about preferred styles of travel. “They are not necessarily for a younger demographic, but for people who are interested in traveling with smaller groups and on experiences that tend to be a little longer,” said Rooney. “A lot of the Classic tours are about eight or nine days long, and the goal with Explorations is to allow enough time for you to really get to know and learn about the destination while there.”
Explorations also reflects the changing interest in the marketplace on experiences rather than sightseeing.
“It’s more focused on experiences,” said Rooney, “to have inclusions that show you the culture, in addition to the Eiffel Towers of the world. So you will do the things that are the reasons why people may know the destinations, but then we will have inclusions that you didn’t expect or that are a little more hands-on, like cooking classes or interactions with locals that give you a glimpse into an aspect of the culture, such as truffle hunting in Italy.”
The evolution of Explorations reflects the changing tastes of Collette’s customers.
“The way we are designing the product is creating a balance and creating choice,” said Leibl-Cote. “A few years back, we started to implement more choice on tours, giving that sense of flexibility. It’s not tying you down to everything we say you need to do. It’s saying, ‘We’re giving you the base of what we know travelers are looking for so you don’t have to stand in line at the Colosseum and go through all that.’”
The Explorations product gives clients a broader range of choice in how they spend their time. Options are provided for those who feel less comfortable exploring on their own, but the options are included in the price of the tour.
“We’re giving choices for people who want more free time, and we’re balancing free time and choice activities. It’s not saying, ‘You must go do this,’ but rather, ‘You can do this or that, it’s still included in the price. But do what you really want to do, what you like.’”
The new tours also reflect destination trends in the marketplace.
“We added product to places where we already had interest,” said Rooney, “Iberia is hot for us right now, from a sales standpoint, so we have two new tours to Portugal and Spain. Both are Explorations tours.”
One of the new Iberian tours is to the Azores.
“That’s a tour for which we don’t have competition in this region,” said Rooney. “It’s a region that is changing, but is not very well known yet, so it’s really a little gem, like the Iceland of 10 years ago. The other one in that region is in northern Portugal and Spain with a focus on the Douro River and Port wine.”
In response to the growing popularity of Croatia, Collette added a new tour in its Classic line. The company is also responding to a growth in interest in Middle Eastern destinations with a new Explorations Egypt and Jordan trip that includes a cruise.
The new selection also includes some tours Rooney classifies as “niche products.”
“We have a new trip to the Baltics that includes St. Petersburg at the end, but also has Vilnius, Riga and Talinn,” she said. “That’s one of those regions of the world that may not be for everyone, but a lot of people are interested in it.”
Also new is Collette’s first trip to Patagonia, which includes a four-night cruise. “That is beautiful South America, a combination of Chile and Argentina. That’s beautiful, really stunning.
It takes a little more than a year to develop a tour. Collette is now working on 2021.