Globus, the Littleton, Colorado-based global tour operator, is expecting 2020 to be its best year since 2000, according to Steve Born, the company’s chief marketing officer.
Born’s prediction is not mere speculation. It is based on hard numbers. Working far ahead, as tour operators do, Globus is already at the halfway point through its 2020 sales.
Born sees four drivers that are behind the company’s current growth wave. The first is Oberammergau, the Passion Play performed every 10 years in the Bavarian village of the same name. It dramatizes the crucifixion of Jesus in an event that includes five hours of theater and three hours for dinner.
“We’re doing quite a bit of volume,” said Born. “We have nine Globus tours that are attached to the Passion Play for one- or two-night stays, and those are sold out. That got us off to a strong start for the Germany-Austria-Switzerland region. That was the first leg up, but there are some other things that are helping to build success.”
Beyond standard destinations
The second strong driver is the “Undiscovered” tour series, a new kind of tour that Born sees as the prototype of touring in the future.
“I consider it to be the starting point of the next phase of touring overall,” said Born. “They are itineraries in high-volume destinations — such as Italy, Britain, and now the Mediterranean — designed from the ground up to get beyond the tried-and-true cities and more conventional itineraries.”
Globus first tried the concept in Italy. “Years ago, we looked at the industry’s Italy touring offering, and almost everything was some variation of Rome, Florence and Venice,” he said. “Some went a little bit further north, some a little bit further south. But it seemed like the standard formula was some combination of that tried-and-true platform.”
The standard offering was a sure seller, but what tour operators were missing was the evolution of their customers.
“We saw that the destination overall was doing well,” said Born, “but touring, as a category, was slowing down because there wasn’t enough product that was inviting people who had been there to come back. Everything was geared to the first-time experience.
With that insight, Globus set out to re-invent the Italy tour experience.
“We built from the ground up itineraries that were designed for the person who had either spent a lot of time there or had toured there before,” said Born. “We knew that, as a tour operator, we could introduce them to destinations that were off the beaten path, places they either weren’t familiar with or that they wouldn’t know how to get to or how much time to spend there.”
For the 2018 product year, Globus introduced nine tours of Italy based on the “Undiscovered” model, and “Italy just exploded,” said Born. “It was up for the year over 40%.”
The “Undiscovered” line had two benefits. It brought back clients who had been to Italy before, and it attracted people who were previously uninterested in escorted touring.
“It attracted folks who felt that they didn’t need a tour to do a more familiar city, or a tried-and-true destination,” said Born. “But to get beyond that and go to these different places and to deal with the logistics involved, how to get there and how much time to spend there, then for the first time, they had an offering that would make sense to take a tour instead of go on their own.”
With Italy jumping 40% in volume, Globus tried the concept in Britain. “We replicated that product design in England beyond London and into Scotland, and we saw the same impact,” said Born. “Britain ended up last year with a 34% increase.”
For 2020, Globus is introducing an “Undiscovered” series to the Mediterranean region.
“This year, we introduced this model to five different countries that line the Mediterranean,” said Born, “with 11 tours designed to capitalize on the spirit in that region and offer, for the first time, a competitor to Mediterranean cruising, where we’re going to islands and ports that big ships don’t visit. Not only was it beyond what we were seeing in the tour category, but it also was beyond where the big ships were docking.”
“Undiscovered Mediterranean” gave clients who had visited port cities for a few hours a chance to spend a night or two there, and get deeper into them.
“It really makes all the difference when you can overnight in one of these places versus just visiting for a couple of hours,” said Born. “You experience it in a completely different way.”
Globus is seeing an even greater result in the Mediterranean region than in Italy and Britain, with its volume more than double that of the previous year. The company intends to continue to expand the concept to other regions.
“I believe this is the next phase of touring,” said Born. “This is where even more sophisticated travelers would find more value in a tour, because it’s delivering them in a very easy way to these places that are the next wave of travel.”
The new product has a bonus effect, helping to alleviate overcrowding and overtourism. “This design is an antidote to overtourism because we are dispersing the volume deeper into regions of the countries that are more welcoming to travel,” said Born. “They funnel tourism beyond the major cities.”
A third factor driving growth is an increase in off-season touring, from November through March.
“We’ve been growing that market through a product line called ‘Escapes,’” said Born. “The key benefit is value. Travelers save 35-40% over traveling that same itinerary in the high season. We found a real market, with today’s traveler more able to get away opportunistically when they see a compelling offer.”
The off-season trips are often being used by clients to take a second vacation.
“The value’s so good that they can afford to jump away for a week in the off season while still maintaining their summer plans,” said Born. “So that’s another thing we’re continuing to grow and develop. Right now, we offer about 40 different itineraries under the Globus Escapes brand. That drives a lot of business in the off season.”
Globus is seeing a demand not only in moderate climates such as Portugal, Greece and Italy, but also in colder regions. “You get an unusual view of a destination when you see it in the winter,” said Born. “There’s less crowding and you’re seeing it more authentically as the locals are experiencing it.”
A fourth driver of growth for Globus is the expansion of personalization. Through a system called Your Way, the tour operator is helping clients customize their trips by interlocking combinations of river cruises, independent land programs and ocean cruises.
“Your Way allows travelers and agents, in one easy transaction, to customize the land portion of their trips based on the amount of time they want to be away and their budgets,” said Born.
Monograms, the Globus family’s independent package programs, can be as short as two nights and three days in duration. Avalon river cruises can be as short as four days. That makes them easy to combine with cruises or other land or river programs.
“It’s a way to personalize length and budget that’s pre-set, so they don’t have to do the work themselves,” said Born. “They can be easily packaged in one transaction.”
It’s a trend, Born said, that the company has seen over the last several years, “but I would say,” said Born, “that the degree to which we can deliver it now for 2020 is new.”