More and more tour companies are offering itineraries that cater to small groups, but ever since it launched in the early 1990s, tour operator Travel Indochina, which specializes in tours to the vast continent of Asia, has known that keeping it small is a formula that works.
“Our groups have an average of 12 travelers and a maximum of 16 on any journey,” says Mark Yacker, North America director for Travel Indochina. “This small group size allows for more flexibility and intimacy than larger groups.”
In fact, about 60 percent of travelers choose the company’s Small Group Tours, and regardless of the group size, 90 percent of Travel Indochina’s tours will run, no matter the number of persons booked. Most departures only require a minimum of two to four travelers to operate, and approximately 30 percent return to Travel Indochina within two years to do another Asia-bound trip.
Travel Indochina first started offering travel journeys to destinations like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the early 1990s. Today, the company has matured with more than 70 itineraries in 11 different countries within the continent.
Yacker says there are a few traits that set Travel Indochina apart from other tour operators: They are true Asia specialists operating in the region for almost 20 years; they boast a team of professional Western tour leaders and local guides; and they specialize in genuinely small-group size itineraries.
He goes on to explain that the tour operator’s main clientele are in their 40s, 50s and 60s, well traveled and looking for a quality itinerary, comfortable accommodations and an experience that depicts Asia’s diverse culture. They are also interested, he says, in meeting new people and savoring the local cuisine.
“We see a good mix of couples and solo travelers looking to share their experience,” he adds, “and our range of Family Journeys offers parents and grandparents the opportunity to open their family’s eyes to this fascinating part of the world.”
Travel Indochina leads groups (as well as individual, tailor-made tours and theme-based excursions) to places like Burma (Myanmar), Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Japan, Cambodia and Mongolia.
“Early on, we recognized that touring, regardless of the group size, is not right for everyone, so Travel Indochina’s product team got to work compiling an extensive collection of three-, four-, and five-star accommodations, which can be packaged with privately guided excursions that are handpicked by the traveler,” says Yacker.
Its 9- and 13-day Burma journeys, Burma Revealed, for example, sell out at least six months in advance. On this itinerary, your clients will get to explore the country like a local as they take a horse-cart ride in Pagan, go on a train ride to Shwe Nyaung, do some light trekking to the Pa-O villages in the hills beyond Inle Lake, or if they prefer they can swim, cycle, visit an orphanage or even a local vineyard.
Other itineraries that are popular include China, India and Thailand with itineraries such as the 15-day China Panorama tour and the 14-day Highlights of Rajasthan tour in India.
“Although we have many itineraries that explore a single country, our North American clients tend to want to visit multiple countries on their Asian journey,” Yacker says. “Since opening our U.S. office in 2011, our 15-day Vietnam & Temples of Angkor and the 19-day Indochina Explorer have been the most popular. These itineraries really connect people with the major destinations in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.”
While trekking through Asia, the group is never far from a Travel Indochina office. The tour operator has six operations offices and numerous partner offices across Asia. Yacker says the satellite offices are essential to the tour operator’s success in crafting unique itineraries, pinpointing exclusive activities, and delivering on-the-ground service.
Travel Indochina practices a thorough responsible travel policy, which includes poignant initiatives such as working with, and contributing to, many Asian organizations. The tour operator also created a Tread Lightly booklet to help travelers be attentive of the impact travel can have on local cultures and the environment.
“One example is the school program we set up to give students the opportunity to train to become travel guides,” says Yacker. “Another is our partnership with an organization called Streets International, which provides a training program to help young Vietnamese in Hoi An to become chefs, bartenders and wait-staff.”
The Street’s International Cafe is on every itinerary that includes Hoi An. The group splits into smaller groups of three or four and a student takes the travelers out of town to a local market where Westerners are few and far between.
“The students take the clients through the market educating them on some of the produce and local delicacies,” says Yacker. “Then they return to the cafe where the group enjoys a drink on the terrace and samples some of the food just discovered in the market.”
Sounds like the type of itinerary a small group can appreciate.
Travel Indochina: (800) 342-1957; travelindochina.com