In play for millennials, Contiki creates build-your-own tours

|
Once the itinerary is created, Contiki arranges transfers and hotel accommodations and offers a menu of activities each day.
Once the itinerary is created, Contiki arranges transfers and hotel accommodations and offers a menu of activities each day.

The term "guided tours" doesn't evoke images of young adults jet-setting around the globe creating Instagrammable memories.

But millennial-focused tour operator Contiki has managed to make guided tours relevant to its 18- to 35-year-old customers by adapting to their evolving needs.

Most recently, Contiki created a form of touring that enables clients to mix and match itineraries and gives them the freedom and flexibility they say they want.

Launching in Europe in 2018, Contiki's Independent Insider itineraries are designed to be assembled like building blocks. Travelers can opt into one block (three nights), two blocks (six nights), three blocks (nine nights) or the full four-block (12 nights) trip. They can even link all four 12-night itineraries to create a four-week European journey.

Once the itinerary is created, Contiki arranges transfers and hotel accommodations and offers a menu of activities each day. There are no wake-up calls or set schedules, and travelers can engage in as little or as many of the available #noregrets-included excursions or the "free time add-ons," which are optional excursions for an added cost.

"They want to know that if they want to make a trip their own, they can do so," said Casper Urhammer, global CEO of Contiki.

Urhammer said that millennial travelers -- especially those who have already been overseas a few times, have traveled with Contiki before or have traditionally been FIT travelers -- want to be able to have a hand in customizing their itinerary so they can do their own thing and not be locked into a tight schedule or be forced to spend time with strangers.

Even so, what is keeping the concept of guided touring alive and growing in popularity among younger travelers is the social aspect.

Urhammer added: "What usually happens when we come into a destination and we say, 'Tonight's your free night. Go and do what you want to do.' -- and this is the irony of the whole thing: they buy [the Independent Insider tour] because they want the free time, but when they're there, they have this cool trip manager, this new group of friends, it is a lot of fun, it is a great experience. They say, 'No, I don't want to be on my own. I want to hang out with this group and have some fun.'"

Socializing doesn't necessarily mean partying hard. Urhammer said that current trends in health, fitness and wellness have made partying, at whatever age, less of a priority for many of today's travelers.

In an effort to break away from its partying reputation, Contiki five years ago split off its tours that cater to the late-night crowd into a category called High Energy. The rest of its tours focus on other interests, such as immersive cultural experiences and cruising.

Urhammer said today's travelers are much more focused on "authenticity" (a word he said he is getting tired of using) and on food. In fact, he said, Contiki research found that good food rates highest among the things that today's travelers want and appreciate most.

In an effort to combine cuisine and authentic experiences, the Independent Insider tours include activities such as a progressive food tour through Berlin, a street art tour of Barcelona and a Vespa-driving tour in Rome.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI