VIP access, less traditional excursion options and a lot more small-ship sailing. Those are some of the trends tour operators are focusing on for 2020.
With the rise of overtourism, tour operators in recent years have been building in more after-hours and private access to both exclusive and popular but crowded attractions.
Tauck and Luxury Gold will expand those options next year on tours to Egypt, which once again has become a hot destination.
Tauck is launching two itineraries there in 2020 -- its first since 2011 -- that will feature an exclusive after-hours, private tour of the Valley of the Kings, including a visit to the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Each of the tours will also include a multiple-night Nile cruise.
Tauck CEO Dan Mahar said the special access Tauck will provide in the Valley of the Kings, which can see daily visitation top 4,000, is transformative.
"Tutankhamen's tomb lay basically undisturbed for more than 3,000 years," Mahar said. "It's far easier to reflect on the sheer magnitude of the history you're experiencing if you're with a small, intimate group after everyone else has left for the day. It elevates an already memorable visit to a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Luxury Gold, meanwhile, is offering a new 10-day land and river trip that includes an after-hours visit to the Temple of Luxor, among other sites.
As part of its special Chairman's Collection, Luxury Gold will also offer exclusive access to unusual venues and interesting people, including the opportunity to dine with a count on his private estate during its 10-day French Vogue Journey.
Luxury Gold also is launching Colombia, including a Chairman's Collection departure in February that features a meeting with Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vasquez, best known for his 2011 award-winning novel, "The Sound of Things Falling."
Jon Grutzner, U.S. president for Luxury Gold and Insight Vacations, said, "Exotic destinations and sustainable tourism are becoming more popular with our travelers, and we want them to experience it in a fully immersive way."
Trafalgar is also offering Colombia for 2020, as well as 12 new trips in the U.S. and Canada. One of these, Southwest Native Trails, will offer a deep dive into Native American culture. The 10-night trip, which begins in Albuquerque, N.M., and finishes in Santa Fe, N.M., includes visits to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the Navajo Nation.
In addition to exclusive meetings and opportunities to sightsee away from crowds, tour operators are increasingly offering guests more choices when it comes to daily excursions.
In 2020, for example, Abercrombie & Kent recently announced it will offer a "design your day" option on all its Luxury Small Group Journeys. Guests will have a choice of at least three excursions, including one active option such as a bike or walking tour. It's a program the company introduced on its private jet journeys.
A&K is launching four limited-edition Marco Polo Journeys in 2020: South Korea and Japan; Rwanda; India; and Bilbao, Portugal, and Bordeaux, France. It is also reintroducing guest favorites in England and Turkey.
The Golden Eagle Danube Express, which will be part of a Tauck tour through the Alps in central Europe.
New next year from Tauck: a luxury rail trip through the Alps in central Europe on the Golden Eagle Danube Express. The itinerary includes three nights on the train with two-night hotel stays on either end in Milan and Vienna.
Globus, meanwhile, said it is significantly expanding its South Pacific portfolio for 2020.
"Australia has always been on travelers' bucket lists; now they're booking, and the South Pacific has never been more popular," said Steve Born, chief marketing officer for the Globus family of brands.
"As a result, we have increased our vacations Down Under by 50%, with new, exciting and immersive journeys in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. For each vacation, our team of experts has crafted incredible adventures, including visiting a kangaroo sanctuary (on the Australian Safari itinerary), enjoying premium wines (Best Kept Secret: Western Australia) and exploring the foodie culture (Wild Tasmania)."
Italy specialist Perillo Tours is expanding to Spain in 2020 with a new 12-day tour.
"Spain has so much character, from the food to the architecture to the people," said Steve Perillo, the third-generation owner of Perillo Tours. "This Mediterranean country is the perfect complement to our Italy product, and we're excited to now offer another European option for our guests."
Collette, meanwhile, is launching a northern Portugal and Spain tour, which product designer Diana Ditto said is "perfect for the culinary inclined and culturally curious traveler."
Expanded small-ship cruising
Tauck and other operators also continue to expand their small-ship and expedition cruising options.
Among the new cruises from Tauck, which is working on doubling its small-ship cruising portfolio, is a 13-day cruise highlighting cultural destinations in the U.K., France, Spain and Portugal that launches in September 2020.
G Adventures recently announced it would introduce a sixth expedition yacht, the Reina Silvia Voyager, to its Galapagos fleet in 2020. The company said the ship will be the most comfortable in its class.
A&K said its 2020-2021 season will feature its largest portfolio of luxury expedition cruises
Additionally, Butterfield & Robinson just released a list of new water-based trips for the 2020 season, which includes private-yacht cruises in Turkey, the Greek islands and the Amazon as well as small-group biking cruises in Sardinia and Croatia's Dalmatian Coast and small-group river cruises in Europe and the Amazon.