horter, more focused and leisurely
paced itineraries are the predominant trends cited by tour
operators to Europe this year.
According to the operators, two factors are behind the trend:
People want to relax more when they travel, and they want to
"They're looking for the places that they would not know," said
Mark Kazlauskas, director of worldwide sales at Tauck World
"We're taking them to the smaller areas and showing them more of
the cultural side" of European destinations.
Kazlauskas pointed to new Tauck tours such as A Week in
Champagne, Burgundy and Paris, a seven-night program limited to 24
guests. It visits small towns, with stays in boutique hotels, among
them Hotel Le Cep in Beaune, "a small [56-room] hotel that is much
more in tune with the culture and destination than one of the
larger city hotels."
Smaller groups and stays in less tourist-trodden hotels and towns
are also high on the agenda for General Tours, so much so that the
operator now limits all groups to 20 and has repositioned its
entire product line as Intimate Journeys.
Escorted travel, said Bob Drumm, president, is where the change
is most distinct.
The change from prior group sizes of 30 to 48, is "very
responsive to what we have heard from passengers," said Drumm.
"They want more individual attention. That's why a smaller group is
important because it's only 20 people hanging on the words of an
Smaller groups, Drumm added, allow General Tours to book smaller
hotels like those belonging to the Baglioni chain in Italy.
Similarly, with dining, he said, "a group of 20 can be much more
welcomed at a small, interesting restaurant than a group of 48
Drumm said touches that bring guests "deeper into the cultures"
of other countries include a dinner at Tuscany's Enoteca Marucci
cooking school in Piertrasante, Italy, on the revamped eight-night
Venice, Tuscany and Rome tour.
Another example Drumm gave is a full-day visit to the Czech
Republic's oldest and best-known folklore festival in the
southeastern village of Straznice, a stop possible only on the June
17 departure of the eight-night Bohemian Countryside tour.
The festival, Drumm said, is "very crowded, primarily with Czechs,
and it's very hard to secure accomodations during this period."
Visiting Straznice provides tour-takers with the "wonderful
flavor of eastern Europe that you can't do when you have large
groups," Drumm said.
Summing up the escorted market, Drumm said, "Customers want more
and more tailored services, freedom to do things on their own, to
get outside the coach and not to stay at consistently similar
hotels" during a tour.
"They want to get closer to the societies they're visiting, and
that was one of the key issues for us in limiting the size of the
As for the demand for less rigid, jam-packed itineraries,
"people are often leaving a very hectic life behind them, whether
they are retired or working," said Heinz Niederhoff, president of
Lawrence, Kan.-based Maupintour.
"They want a more leisurely vacation. They don't want to get up
at the crack of dawn necessarily. They want a leisurely breakfast,
to do some shopping and see the museums, but they don't want to be
"That's a trend that has been developing over the last two to
three years," said Niederhoff. "People want shorter, more focused
tours, staying two to three nights in each city and covering a more
All six of Maupintour's new tours to Europe visit a single
country, and the majority concentrate on a specific region of that
A program that is representative of the trend includes
Maupintour's Italian Lakes & Tuscany, which stays at four
hotels in eight nights, and the English Yorkshire & the Lake
District tour, which stays at three hotels in seven nights.
Although Maupintour's England's West Country tour changes
accommodations relatively frequently, five times in nine nights,
the farthest it ventures from London is Land's End, about 200 miles
southwest of the capital.
Particularly hot European products for Globus & Cosmos, said
Scott Nisbet, the firm's executive director of marketing, are
vacations that combine cruises with land touring and its
LesuireStyle Vacations, "which are slower paced, shorter in
duration and have more free time."
LeisureStyle Vacations include four of the 13 new Europe
products for Globus & Cosmos. Combined cruise and land-tour
vacations account for three others.
At Trafalgar, a third of the new tours are additions to the
Europe at Leisure hub-and-spoke series, which was introduced last
year and has doubled in number from five to 10.
"We've had leisurely paced tours for a number of years," said
Gavin Tollman, Trafalgar president and chief operating officer, but
the Europe at Leisure series sets that type of vacation apart as
its own brand "for the passenger who does not want to be packing
and unpacking for several nights. "
He added that the series is "geared toward the younger market --
people who want the convenience as well as flexibility to do what
The market for escorted travel does appear to be a bit younger,
Tollman said Trafalgar's highest passenger growth for the past
two years is in the 45- to 55-year-old market segment, "which
outsells the 65-plus."
"If you go back 20-odd years ago, 65-plus was probably our
biggest market segment," Tollman said.
Another trend Tollman noted is an increase in family travel,
across several generations.
"Three-generational travel [grandparents, parents,
grandchildren] has become extremely popular with escorted
vacations," he said, describing the family market as a perfect
match to the "hassle-free" nature of escorted travel.