Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightIt happened kind of slowly, one of those quiet, gradual trends. But one by one, several high-profile tour operators recently downsized to just a one-word company name.

Tauck World Discovery became just Tauck last year. Trafalgar Tours became Trafalgar. Explorations by Collette? Nope. Just Explorations. On a similar note, Gap Adventures changed its name to G Adventures after a legal battle with clothing retailer Gap.

So what gives? Are these pared-down names actually better for business?

"Over 85 years, guests and agents have come to associate the Tauck family name with quality, life-changing travel experiences," a Tauck representative explained about the name downsizing. "As we've offered more choices in the market to our growing segments of travelers, we've stuck to the simple, strong, passionate family behind our success: Tauck.

"Plus, in this world of tweeting, having a shorter master brand name doesn't hurt," the representative added.

In this Twitter world, a one-word brand name does seem to be status quo. Apple, Google, Facebook, McDonald's -- some of the strongest global brands are indeed just one word. So it makes sense that tour operators are getting hip to the times and are following suit.

In theory, if the brand is strong enough, there's no need to explain what the company offers within the brand name.

But the tour industry is perhaps not on the international recognition scale of some of the aforementioned global brands. So is there a risk in losing potential customers by paring down a name too much?

A recent debate between tour giants Trafalgar and Globus touched on this subject by addressing Internet searches for the term "tour."

Trafalgar President Paul Wiseman said Trafalgar eliminated the word from the company's name and from all of its marketing material because it has a strong negative connotation.

But president and CEO of the Globus Family of Brands, Scott Nisbet, noted that in 2011, there were 131 million Google searches for the word "tour." Based on Nisbet's assessment, that would put Trafalgar at a disadvantage by dropping the alliteration.

In a September statement about his company's name change, G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip summarized the significance of a company name this way: "A brand is defined by its culture, not by a corporate name or a logo."

Hmm. Some food for thought, Bruce.

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

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