At the start of the year, Collette Vacations changed its name to just Collette, introduced a new logo and relaunched its website — but the new Collette is really all about reinforcing the old Collette.

“Most of our major competitors have all become much stronger river cruise and cruise companies than land-based,” said Dan Sullivan Jr., CEO of Collette. “We’re purely guided travel. That’s all we are. We’re not FIT. We’re going to be the expert on guided travel.”

While many competing escorted tour operators have in fact diversified their business model over the years, either by entering the river cruise market as Sullivan suggested, or creating independent travel packages, Collette remains firmly in the escorted tour space.

Competitors have said they branched out because there is more growth to be had in those emerging travel segments. Collette feels there is plenty more growth to be had in escorted tours, reporting a 36% to 37% growth in bookings for 2014 over the same time last year.

But if what Collette wants to do is just keep doing what it’s been doing, why drop the word “Vacations” from the name?

According to Sullivan, Collette is much more than a “vacation” provider, a word that evokes fun-and-sun getaways rather than the experience-driven, guided-travel offering the company strives to provide.

A Collette group on an itinerary taking in Ayers Rock in Australia.“We really see it as a brand evolution,” said Kristine Chochrek, the operator’s vice president of marketing and advertising. “Collette has so much great history and so many things to be proud of. But like most companies, you continuously have to adapt and evolve as consumer evolve.”

As a result, she said, “We’ve dropped the word ‘Vacations’ from our logo, because what we’re really finding is that travelers are looking for an experience that goes beyond just a vacation. They’re looking at not only the great destinations and the sights that they’ll see, but they’re looking at the connections they’ll make.”

And while Collette is committed to staying strongly grounded in the land-based, escorted tour space, that’s not to say the company hasn’t evolved or doesn’t plan to continue evolving to meet the changing needs of travelers.

A Collette tour in 2014 doesn’t necessarily look like the same tour did 10 years ago. There is more immersion now, more interaction with locals, as well as more free time built in for those who want to explore on their own. And for those who prefer a smaller group setting, Collette has its Explorations brand, which limits group sizes to 28.

Ultimately, Chochrek said, this isn’t a move to change Collette but simply to change the way the operator markets itself, with an emphasis on experiences.

Collette’s new logo is “Collette: guided by travel,” and the newly relaunched website can be found at www.gocollette.com.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly. 

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