Canadian tour operator G Adventures has assembled 55 itineraries throughout the U.S. and Canada for 2012, marking the first time since the company was founded in 1990 that it is doing tours in North America.

The new program is geared toward the inbound travel market, explained Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures (formerly known as Gap Adventures), who said he expects that about 90% of the North America tour business will be made up of travelers from outside North America. Despite being based in Toronto, only 30% of G Adventures' source market comes from the U.S. and Canada.

Nevertheless, the product is still being marketed and sold in North America, and all departures are open for North America agents and passengers to book. None of the departures are being reserved for specific source markets, so passengers from different countries will all book into the same tours.

With tours all over the world and 17 international offices, Poon Tip said he's been wanting to get into the North America market for the last decade but that it's proved a challenge despite being right in his backyard.

"It's not as easy for us in developed countries as it is for us in undeveloped countries," said Poon Tip, adding that it took the company a long time to work around the heavily regulated tourism markets in the U.S. and Canada, markets that he said favor larger coach operators over small group tours.

"There are a lot of tourist boards that are state-based," he said. "If you want to do trips that cross over state lines, you're dealing with a lot of tourist boards that aren't interested in helping their neighboring states."

By contrast, he said, "If you're dealing with Thailand and Peru, you're dealing with one tourist board [per country]. All the states have different agendas. ... It's just more work."

Nevertheless, G Adventures finally assembled a series of new trips that range from a six-day Canyonlands Active Escape from $1,999 per person, to a 16-day New Orleans to San Francisco Road Trip from $1,949 per person, to a 45-day Best of the USA tour from $5,049 per person.

G Adventures' North America trips fall under several different trip styles, such as active trips for outdoor enthusiasts, overland camping trips and classic tours. They also range in service level from basic itineraries for smaller groups and more budget-conscious travelers, to comfort level with upgraded accommodations and transportation. All tours will have a dedicated tour leader, and group sizes start at eight people.

He said he's hoping to differentiate his North America offerings from competitors' products with G Adventures' differentiators, such as encounters with local communities, and by focusing on smaller groups of 10 to 12 passengers.

For news on tour operations, wholesalers and river cruising, follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.


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