Traffic rising, Globus adds new tours to China lineup

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China is booming for Globus. With business to the destination up 40% this year over 2006, the tour operator is debuting four new escorted tours to China for 2008.

"We attribute [the rise] to increased demand as well as our expansive trade push," said Jennifer Halboth, manager of channel marketing for Globus and affiliated brands Brennan Vacations, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways. "China is extremely important right now, and we're definitely looking at it becoming a primary destination for us over the next five years."

Building on the popularity of existing product, such as its Classic China tours, and newer vacations introduced last year, including the Cultural China & Tibet with Yangtze River Cruise package, the company is rolling out four new tours to the country: two under the Globus brand and two as part of its Monograms lineup.

Globus' 2008 China and Asia brochure, which made its debut Aug. 15, will include a five-night Chinese New Year in Hong Kong package, priced from $1,029 land only, and a 14-night Treasures of Japan & China, priced from $4,409 for land and flights during the tour. Transpacific air is additional.

New Monograms-branded product to China will include the eight-night Highlights of China to Shanghai, Guilin, Xian and Beijing, priced from $1,719 for land and internal air, and the similar, 11-night Highlight of China & Hong Kong, priced from $2,459 for land, including extra nights in Hong Kong and internal air.

Globus tours combine traditional sightseeing with more intimate, authentic interactions with locals, according to Halboth.

"We have unique, authentic experiences mixed in with standard sightseeing, such as visits to the Great Wall," she said. "On some tours, for example, we go into local kindergartens, while others go into local homes for a visit or customers attend noodle-making demonstrations.

"We feel that, especially with non-Europe destinations, interaction with locals is very important," she added.

Escorted tours the right offering

The new product further fuels a China push that Globus, traditionally a purveyor of European vacations, began last year with the rollout of its microsite, at www.escapetochina.com, and travel agent outreach.

"Strategically, we decided we really want to focus on growing our non-Europe business," said Halboth. "As we start getting younger people or travelers who have already done a lot of Europe with us coming into the fold, exotic, non-European destinations hold a lot of appeal.

"China has the potential to rank in our top 10 destinations in time," she added. "Yangtze River cruises are really hot."

China, along with other Asian destinations, is particularly ripe for growth in escorted touring from the U.S., thanks to not only its exotic appeal but the unfamiliarity factor, which can breed insecurity among otherwise confident regular travelers.

"China, almost more than any other 'exotic' destination, really lends itself well to escorted," said Halboth. "Plenty of travelers out there who'd never think of travel with Globus to Europe are really going to think twice about [independent] travel to a country like China.

"That's due to so many different concerns, such as the size of the country and the unfamiliar food," she added. "There's so much to navigate. While people might go back independently once they get comfortable, for their first or second time they'll most likely consider an escorted tour."

Noting the recent interest in China travel -- most U.S. travelers visit in spring and fall -- Globus opened an operational office in Beijing in 2006. "We felt it was really important to have someone on the ground in the area, because Chinese businesses are very relationship-oriented," said Halboth.

"Our representative can inspect excursions first-hand to make sure we're offering authentic [product], and to ensure that our relationships with hotels are what they should be," she added. "Having that insider knowledge for our product has helped."

Globus is also working hard to educate travel agents about both China and Globus' offerings to the destination.

"Part of the strategy is to make sure agents that know that we are a specialist in travel to exotic destinations such as China," said Halboth, noting Globus companies often carry more passengers in China and Asia than do many niche operators, thanks "to our distribution and size."

The travel trade campaign began in 2006 with a three-tiered mailing promotion to agencies -- for example, sending a batch of fortune cookies -- and a series of individual familiarization trips for top-producing agents as well as the launch of the www .escapetochina.com Web site.

"Especially with China, we want travel agents to feel comfortable talking about the destination," said Halboth, noting Globus relies on agent partners to help clients with matters such as visas. "The Web site addresses the myths, the realities and frequently asked questions about travel to China."

Looking to spur further bookings, through Oct. 31 Globus is offering a $400 discount per couple on air-inclusive pricing for any Asia vacation departing in 2008.

"What we put forth to travel agents and their customers is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that avid travelers really need to go [on]," said Halboth. "As we're up overall to China this year, we're very pleased and plan to do other non-Europe destinations."

For more information, call (800) 221-0090 or visit www.globusjourneys.com or www.escapetochina.com.

To contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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