Customizable tours: Growth in private itineraries

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With the rise in demand by luxury travelers for the personal, tour companies are beefing up their private itinerary options for 2018.

Butterfield & Robinson is kicking off the new year with a handful of ready-to-book private trips across British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland that it said would give "travelers immersive luxury experiences in Canada's most diverse and stunning regions."

Earlier this month at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, National Geographic Expeditions said it expected continued expansion of its private itineraries program. Nancy Schumacher, senior vice president of tour operations, said the program has grown by 100% each year since it was launched in 2015.

And Abercrombie & Kent says it is seeing double-digit increases in its Luxury Tailor Made Travel program. "The growth is being driven by multigenerational travel that often includes extended family members, such as aunts, uncles or cousins," A&K spokeswoman Jean Fawcett said.

"Having a private guide makes it possible to tailor each day to the interests and physical abilities of the group," she said. "That might mean taking more frequent breaks in hot climates, stopping for a gelato in the town square or adjusting scheduled sightseeing to take nap times into consideration when traveling with young children."

Fawcett said expanding the Tailor Made program was one of Keith Baron's goals when he became president of A&K USA a year ago.

"As part of this, we developed regional Tailor Made portfolios for Europe, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East, Asia and North America," she said.

At National Geographic, Schumacher says the company has 34 itineraries with private guides that can be easily booked on the travelers' preferred dates. They can also be customized and expanded to include different types of experts for "an enhanced experience."

Butterfield & Robinson, which offers both custom and ready-to-book group and private travel, said its Canadian itineraries were crafted to appeal to all kinds of travelers and were created in response to "an exponential rate of growth in friends, families, corporate groups and couples traveling privately." Expeditions include walking and hiking options in British Columbia and Newfoundland as well as a more city-centric, history-themed itinerary in Quebec and wildlife and whale watching on Vancouver Island. Price tags range from about $6,000 to $14,000 per person.

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