Tour operators have been increasingly focusing on the experiential aspect of tours. In an effort to court would-be tour goers, Globus is adding local connections and experiences to all its Europe tours for 2013.
After polling prospective tour customers last year to find out what would increase the appeal of a tour, three ideas emerged: taking passengers to lesser-known sites, spotlighting local personas and tasting regional foods, said Steve Born, vice president of marketing for Globus.
Consequently, Globus created what it calls Local Favorites.
"We audited every tour to either spotlight those elements that were already there, or in most cases they were elements that were created," Born said.
Some examples of Local Favorites experiences include staying in a French chateau on the Normandy, Brittany & Chateau Country itinerary; a farewell dinner at a Sicilian farmhouse on the Highlights of Sicily and Southern Italy tour; and hitting golf balls at the St. Andrews Golf Centre during the Bonnie Scotland tour.
"It definitely helps with that idea of, really, think again, touring is not what you may have thought it was," Born said. "The things that you do on tour [now] are more active, more dynamic, more interesting, deeper dives into the culture."
Last year, Trafalgar introduced what it calls Insider Highlights, experiences Trafalgar either added or enhanced on its tours to give them an "insider" feel.
For instance, Trafalgar offers a "Be My Guest" culinary experience on its regional itineraries in which a local family hosts tour guests for a meal.
G Adventures' 'Local Living'
Canadian operator G Adventures, meanwhile, introduced a new brand for 2013 called Local Living, a portfolio of 23 new tours.
The product was tested this year with two tours in Spain and one in Italy. The local living trips involve travelers staying in a farmhouse or with a local family, "community tourism," as founder Bruce Poon Tip described it.
The idea is to give travelers the opportunity to live locally, cook locally and also do local excursions. The test programs in the Amalfi Coast and Southern Tuscany were completely sold out for 2012, according to the company.
Half of the new Local Living tours for 2013 are in Europe. In addition to Europe, destinations include Marrakech, Morocco; Cape Town, South Africa; Mongolia; and Ecuador, among others.
As an example, for the 2013 seven-day Ecuador Jungle tour travelers will stay with a local family in the Amazon with the intention of learning Quichua traditions and of experiencing life in the jungle firsthand. Participants will visit an animal rescue center, learn about blowguns, take part in a jungle cooking class and artisan crafts sessions and experience a shaman healing and jungle marriage ceremony.
Departures for all Local Living tours begin February, and pricing varies -- the tours are targeted to those looking for an affordable villa or apartment rental experience.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.
St. Andrews golf photo courtesy of Shutterstock.