Yes, you read right—the company you’ve come to know as Swain Tours is kicking off 2014 by rebranding to Swain Destinations, but don’t worry, the ownership and culture of the organization will remain unchanged and the core values of the family-run business will remain steadfast, the tour operator stresses.
“When I started the company 27 years ago, it was Swain Australia Tours, and then we branched into Asia and Africa, so we had Swain Asia Tours and Swain Africa Tours. Then in 2003, we combined them all to make Swain Tours so it would be less confusing. But what we found over the last 10 years is that it became confusing to travel agents because due to the name they assumed we did escorted touring,” says Ian Swain, president and founder of Swain Destinations. What the tour operator offers is exactly the opposite, he points out. “Everything we do is customizing the travel experience. We’ve been doing FIT since we started, so [this new name] really defines what the brand should be. Our tagline, in fact, is ‘customizing the travel experience.’”
Swain Destinations focuses on Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Asia, India and Africa, and what makes them unique, Swain says, is that they curate itineraries based on each individual’s travel preferences. So whether your client wants a chef’s table dining extravaganza on Hayman Island in Australia, a night out in Singapore’s Chinatown, a river terrace dinner with Maiko dance in Kyoto, or a safari journey across the East African Plains, they can certainly get that.
“We try to do things that are out of the ordinary, but otherwise we are very strong in the high-end market and I take great lengths to meet with the owners and managers of the luxury lodges in Australia and New Zealand, the safari camps in Africa and the great hotels and resorts in Asia,” explains Swain. “We know them personally; we know which rooms we should be booking; we know when they should be traveling there. When we have clients traveling there, we can send an e-mail or call the properties up and say, ‘Hey, we have Mr. and Mrs. Smith traveling there, please look out for them,’ so our clients get a better experience.”
But when we asked Swain what makes the company’s offerings unique in the marketplace, he didn’t immediately point to the offerings travelers would be privy to while on their vacations, rather he says, “One of the unique things we have is that the consultants that we have on the team, apart from being with us for a long time, they are basically from the destination they are selling. So if an agent calls up for a trip to Australia, they are going to speak with an Australian. We have that personal touch—the passion that comes through when someone is from that destination.”
Swain Destinations also makes it a point to build partnerships with tourism boards and airlines. For example, they’ve partnered with Air New Zealand to create packages that take you to New Zealand to see the areas where “The Hobbit” was filmed. The 12-night A Journey to Treasure itinerary travels from Wellington to Hobbiton and includes roundtrip international economy class airfare on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Auckland; roundtrip airport transfers; 4-day Budget Rental Car (automatic); one night in Auckland; two nights in Rotorua; Hobbiton movie set and farm tour; Mitai Maori Cultural Experience; two nights in Wellington; and other goodies. Of course, the best part is that this itinerary can be fully customized to your client’s interests and needs. Rates start at $4,420.
And although Swain says it’s tough to be unique in this era of travel, these are the sort of unique experiences “travelers look for and strive for.” For example, on New Year’s Eve, “we have been for the last four years chartering motorboats on the Sydney Harbour so that our clients can see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Instead of having the cost of chartering their own boat, we’ll charter a boat that can hold 60 people and we’ll sell it to 30 people so there’s plenty of room and it becomes very inexpensive to have an experience you can’t have anywhere else.”
travel agent intel
“Travel agents are our blood,” Swain says, “and we are very committed to the travel agents via the various consortias.” As part of the rebrand, Swain Destinations will launch a new website with a dedicated travel agent section. If travel agents log on to the website and register, they can download the logo and within a couple of clicks travel agents can take any of the sample itineraries that Swain has on its website, make it their own and e-mail it to their clients in HTML or PDF format. Travel agents can access webinars as well.
Swain says travel agents are crucial, especially when given the complexity of creating a tour. “Our average trip has 40 to 45 components to it. For consumers to do that online on one’s own is pretty impossible—you have to spend a lot of time on it. We [and travel agents] provide consumers with expertise.”
Swain Destinations: (800) 847-9246; swaindestinations.com