In the world of packaged vacations, the traditional categories of guided (also known as escorted) and independent tours have long remained separate and distinct from one another. But, as today’s travelers continue to evolve and dictate their travel options, the landscape has changed and so, too, have the categories. Enter the latest hybrid vacation option: guided independent travel.
If you haven’t yet encountered the guided independent travel arena, you might be surprised to know that it is one of the fastest-growing segments of guided travel, according to tour operators. Here are the ABCs of what this newly popular vacation travel segment is all about, straight from the experts.
What is guided independent travel?
While fun is the primary concern for travelers heading to a foreign country, unfortunately there is more to consider, including how to move around from place to place, how to see the iconic sights of the destination, and how to explore the destination in a way that is specific to each person. Guided independent travel shows travelers the icons, handles the logistics, and gives each traveler time to tailor the trip to their wants and needs. Optional excursions are typically offered to let travelers pick-and-choose the experience, allowing them to have their own journey, even though they are traveling with a group.
What are some additional perks of this type of travel?
Travelers get the benefits of a guided journey, such as access to iconic sights in a destination, meals included for budgeting purposes, and a guide to point them in the right direction while still being independent to explore on their own. This type of travel provides the flexibility for a client to take ownership of their trip.
What type of traveler is seeking this type of vacation experience?
Guided independent travel is for people who are adventurous enough to go off on their own and want to focus on experiences, and those who would choose these benefits over staying in extravagant accommodations. It is ideal for young people who want to explore the world without breaking the bank or having to postpone the opportunity to save for a house or children. And as the retiree pool in the U.S. continues to expand, these travelers are yet another group that will opt for guided independent journeys to satisfy their long-awaited travel bucket lists without overspending their savings or fixed income earnings.
What would be an example of a guided independent vacation?
Think of a destination like Rome. The Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica and many iconic sights that make up this city are included in the guided portion of this trip. Travelers are led effortlessly through the crowds, preventing them from wasting time standing around doing nothing, and they have the benefit of listening via an ear piece to their travel director (from up to 150 feet away) to hear all of the history of the sights. They can take pictures, reflect, or just walk on their own without having to feel like they are being herded like cattle. During free time, they can sit in a café with a glass of prosecco and watch the city move, go to a museum to soak up more history, or even find a pub to watch a futbol match with some locals. This type of trip is unique to the travelers, not dictated by the company to the group.
Who should travel agents market these trips to?
People who express they want to go to a destination that they do not have a lot of knowledge about, but who also want the flexibility to explore on their own. If travelers want to take extra time to shop, people watch, or even bungee jump off a bridge, they can do any of those things, without worrying that they will miss out on also seeing the highlights of a destination.
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