Tour Talk

The Wayfarers

written by | Posted on August 1st, 2011

Are your clients looking for a different kind of vacation, an off-the-shelf leisure experience that guarantees a never-to-be forgotten face-to-face cultural and eco adventure?

The Wayfarers offer just that with a leisurely and unique alternative to traditional tours—a kind of one-step-at-a-time adventure in 15 exciting destinations that highlight “eco-sensitive ‘walking’ holidays of both culture and fitness,” with 39 itineraries and 76 departure dates.

The tour company, founded in Dorset, England, in 1984 by three friends—Michael West, Christopher Hague and Peter Clifford, all of whom shared a love of exploring the countryside on foot—shares that interest today with travelers to South Africa, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Switzerland, Italy, France, New Zealand and the U.S.

“[On our walking tours] versus a traditional tour, you are able to visit with locals, stop where you please to enjoy the sights for longer, have entry into locations closed to groups, and experience a culture up-close,” says Judy Allpress, director of sales, U.S. & Canada, for The Wayfarers, based in the Newport, R.I. U.S. office for the company.

Allpress says because The Wayfarers is a small, privately owned and operated company, it’s a given that “…great personal care and highly regarded service” can be offered to each guest, setting it apart from many other active tour companies. It doesn’t hurt that the average group runs from just six to 14 participants, in addition to a “Walk Leader” on the trail and “Walk Manager” who looks after arrangements, the latter being caretakers of the everyday care and service that’s part and parcel of the company’s six to 13-day tours.

“Our ‘walk leaders’ and ‘managers’ offer local knowledge and convivial companionship,” says Allpress. “Our staff is consistently rated the best in the business by our guests, who are well traveled.”

A typical guest has “…an adventurous mind and curiosity who appreciates the small details you see on foot—the color of a changing sky, a perfectly plowed field, the value of self-discovery,” adds Allpress. Some 20 to 35 percent of those guests return every year, with an average age ranging from 45 to 65. Allpress says being “consistently gym fit” is not a requirement, but it is necessary to be in good health to enjoy the outdoors and walking.

New this year, walks are rated on a five-level system, with a five rating indicating the highest challenge level. Each rating is based on a combination of type of varying terrain, walking distance/time and elevation gain. For walks with a four or five rating (the most “energetic”), The Wayfarers includes a complimentary, 4-week pre-conditioning Fit for Trips program (a $169 value), customized by itinerary so clients are ready to enjoy the tour to the fullest.

While guests are walking, vans transport luggage and can also move guests, if they desire. Other forms of transportation from one place to the next may also include ferries and cable cars, depending on the location. Accommodations are in manor houses, inns, and generally four-star accommodations.

Tours range in price from $2,795 to $7,995 pp and include meals, transport, hotels, wines at dinner, hiking and entrance fees. Air and transfers to meeting points are extra.

Many of The Wayfarers tour itineraries fall under the category of literary walks, which focus on a particular theme or author related to the area of the walk. Guests are able to “experience the area more through the lens of the writing and views of the author or authors,” such as the Jane Austen Country itinerary in Southern England. Other tours make the area itself the theme, as in the Giant’s Causeway & Donegal itinerary in Northern Ireland, which has a strong historical theme.

the local feel The Wayfarers works closely with local suppliers, using small, high-quality family-run businesses wherever possible as part of its commitment to give back locally and be “eco-sensitive.”

“Walking is an inherently eco-friendly mode of transport,” says Allpress. “Most of our visits along the way involve arriving and departing from delicate natural environments and specially protected World Heritage sites, and lesser known local monuments on foot.

“We believe spending time with those who care for their heritage offers a greater insight into local cultures,” says Allpress. “At the end of a trip, we come away with a genuine understanding of other people and an appreciation for the places we visit.”