Tour Talk

Insight Vacations

written by | Posted on August 1st, 2010

For over 42 years, Insight Vacations, wearing its tag line, “The Art of Touring In Style,” has hosted millions of travelers on its premium escorted tours throughout Britain, Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia, the Eastern Mediterranean and North America.

The company, in fact, has grown from just a handful of staff in London carrying just 5,700 passengers in 1978, to the powerhouse tour operator it is today hosting more than 100,000 guests each year and with offices in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore and the U.K., and is still growing on a very hot year in 2010.

“2010 will be—if not our best year—it will be the second best year in the company’s history. It’s come back roaring for us. At Insight, we focused on escorted tours, we’ve got a great product, we’ve got little or no competition and we’re very aggressive with travel agents to help them with their business,” says Marc Kazlauskas, president of Insight Vacations. “We stayed with partners and we continued to market and we continued to spend wisely and it paid off. This year it’s coming back to us. It has been phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal for Insight and we’re hoping 2011 will be even better.”

Adjusting to the marketplace, too, is something this veteran tour operator is very good at doing, which means countering the popularity of European cruises that agents sometimes push going for the easier sell, that and the misperception many of today’s agents and consumers have about escorted touring.

To counter that, Kazlauskas says, “We’ve got a whole presentation and kit that we put out that goes through the whole litany. When a customer comes in either asking for a cruise or if they’re thinking of offering a cruise, the agent should ask first and foremost, ‘What’s your priority, taking a cruise or seeing Europe?’ And if the customer says, ‘Seeing Europe,’ then hey, that should switch on a light bulb and they should ask more qualified questions. ‘Why are you going to Europe—are you going to meet the people, to experience the culture, to see the sights, to eat the food?’ As they start drilling down these questions, that little light bulb goes on to the customer and they can say, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about a means of getting around Europe that frankly sounds like it’s suited to you better than a cruise. You’ll do more and obviously at the end it will cost less and frankly, we think it will enrich your experience more than going on a cruise.’”

Kazlauskas also reminds agents that escorted touring is no longer what it was 15 years ago. The multi-country tours have taken a back seat to more regional touring and offering a lot more independent choices for clients to select from and enrich their vacation experience even more. “Now, what’s happening is, we’re offering sightseeing that you couldn’t do on your own and doing things that you could never do if you weren’t with us,” he explains “You’re getting more free time to explore on your own and we’re including more 3- and 4-night stays so you’re spending more time in a city or a town.”

At the same time, he adds, “We’re also doing things at Insight that are more experiential—we have dine-around, we have excursions that highlight dinners that you couldn’t do even if you wanted to buy them on your own.” As a result, he says, “Now the best-sellers are Italy or southern Italy or southern U.K. or Normandy, Britanny and the Loire Valley—the very regionalized tours are the best-sellers now. We still do have multi-country tours for first-time travelers, but they’re obviously not as popular as the regional tours.”

This year, the company started a program called Select Choices, which is basically an independent stay in one, two or three cities. “For example,” he says, “we’ve got London, London-Paris, Paris, Paris-Rome and then we’ve got London-Paris-Rome, so you can take one city or take three cities and we’ll take you from city-to-city-to-city and it’s hosted so you’ve got someone looking after you—kind of like a traveling concierge—and they take care of all arrangements once you’re there. It’s all four- and five-star hotels and it’s done extremely, extremely well this year.”