This is the second of two interviews with Avanti Destination’s Harry Daalgard on FITs
FITs are an increasingly popular choice for clients who want to forego off-the-shelf packaged tours in favor of customized itineraries.
FITs to Europe are booming now but what about the FIT market in Central and South America?
Not only is it growing, it’s also an area travel agents need to know about for those clients that are looking beyond Europe, according to Avanti Destination’s founder and president Harry Daalgard. The company specializes in independent travel to Europe and Central and South America.
Travel Market Report spoke with Daalgard about FITs in Latin America and what agents need to know to increase their share of the market.
Are FIT options expanding in Latin America?
Dalgaard: Latin America is growing, definitely. When people have been to Europe, they’ve been to Mexico, they look at new destinations. If you want to keep that client you’ve got to be able to serve that market.
Latin America is complicated and it can be intimidating. I have to take my hat off to our partners in travel down there. Every destination we work with, the local DMCs are extremely customer-service driven and innovative.
What can travel agents do to increase their Latin America FIT business?
Dalgaard: For agents, the most important thing is to learn about the destination. If they don’t have the knowledge, they aren’t bringing the value that the customer expects.
When it comes to Central and South America, there are numerous destination courses available. Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Brazil all have them. I think they’re really a tremendous value to agents and in turn for their clients.
What travel trends are you seeing in Latin America?
Dalgaard: Latin America is more dynamic than Europe in the sense of its evolving infrastructure and product. It’s easier for me to have a DMC create a new experience there than in Europe.
In South America, Peru for the last five years has gone through the roof. That’s due to the strong promotion the Peruvians have done. They’ve doubled down on infrastructure in the Sacred Valley.
There are some wonderful resorts leading to Machu Picchu. We’re also seeing lots of growth in the Amazon regions; Puno, Lake Titicaca, and Arequipa. And Lima of course is a culinary center these days.
You said it’s important for agents to know about the region’s icons. What do you mean by that?
Dalgaard: With South America, it is tough to get between regions. And people are limited by time. So they tend to seek out the icons.
Agents should be well-versed on Machu Picchu, Iguazu, the Atacama, the Galapagos. If a client wants to do Machu Picchu and the Galapagos in one trip, that doesn’t leave much time in two weeks to do anything else.
Are there any other destinations in South America that have taken off?
Dalgaard: Lower Patagonia, from Puerto Natales to Calafate, is doable and people are doing it. Iguazu Falls is always popular. But there’s still an issue with Brazilian visas being so complicated to get. So, we’re seeing tremendous growth on the Argentinian side of Iguazu.
A year or two ago, we added Nicaragua. It’s a country with so many contrasts. Ecuador has the Amazon, some interesting indigenous regions and of course the Galapagos. Again it’s a small country known for its variety. Agents who take the time to bone up on these regions will really be ahead of the game.
FITs: A Booming Market and an Opportunity for Agents