AAA Exclusive Vacations fills gap with adventure brand

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Morocco is among the international destinations being offered by Club Adventures.
Morocco is among the international destinations being offered by Club Adventures.

After looking for a tour operator partner that could offer AAA agents and members adventure-oriented trips catering to younger travelers, AAA Exclusive Vacations decided to create its own brand.

The result was Club Adventures, a portfolio of small-group international trips that focus on off-the-beaten-path destinations and experiences that can be booked by AAA members and agents.

Allison Villasenor, director of AAA Exclusive Vacations, said Club Adventures was born when AAA realized there was a gap in its product portfolio. 

Travelers, she said, "want to go a little bit deeper. They want a little bit more of an authentic experience. They want to travel in smaller groups, and they want to get under the cover of their destination."

She added that when AAA looked to fill that gap by partnering with an adventure-travel supplier, "the products all weren't really exactly what we were looking for. And that's when we decided let's look into designing our own product line."

Club Adventures offers itineraries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Central and South America with groups of 16 or fewer people. They include features like locally owned accommodations, interactive meal experiences such as cooking classes and unique, local encounters. 

Some of the itineraries spend much more time in one destination to enable deeper exploration rather than quick visits. 

Example itineraries include a nine-day Expressions of Portugal tour for $2,599, a 14-day East African Adventure for $5,499 and a nine-day Colorful Costa Rica itinerary for $1,999. 

Club Adventures departures are guaranteed. The first trips will depart in February. They can already be booked either by AAA members or agents (non-AAA agencies cannot book this product).

In a statement, the company said, "Club Adventures allows AAA to manage the complete traveler experience from shopping to booking to delivery. This is an opportunity for us to create a relationship continuum that we have never really had before, and we believe it will signify a new level of innovation for AAA Travel as well as a new level of member engagement."

AAA Exclusive Vacations was launched in 2015 as a way to create more customized itineraries that weren't available through AAA preferred suppliers. But Club Adventures goes beyond that, acting as a full-service tour operator with all the necessary operations staffing and the ability to execute itineraries from booking through a client's return, Villasenor said. 

In order to do so, Club Adventures has partnered with destination management companies in countries throughout the world. Villasenor said each has undergone rigorous training in order to comply with the standard of experiences and service AAA wants to ensure.

As for whether owning its own adventure-travel operator might introduce conflicts with AAA's preferred suppliers, Villasenor said, "We're going to continue to support and grow all of our existing tour and cruise relationships that we have out in the marketplace. I think it's very key to point out that this fills a very serious gap. We're not joining a market where we have a preferred supplier in the adventure realm already and then we're adding this to compete with it. ... We're not trying to take any market share from preferred vendors at all."

AAA Exclusive Vacations is 100% owned by 10 AAA clubs, including AAA National. The owner clubs share any profits, and other AAA clubs are welcome to join the venture. 

Ultimately, Villasenor said, a key goal in creating Club Adventures was to attract younger travelers, a demographic that has not been the organization's strength, to AAA and its products. 

"We are really trying to engage the next generation to ensure that we have a robust future of travelers who choose to travel with AAA," she said.

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