What started in Turkey 17 years ago as a DMC is now changing gears as a tour operator as Crossroads Travels rebrands itself as Crossroads Tours International offering tours to Turkey, Greece and Egypt. We sat down with the founder and managing director of Crossroads Tours International, Erol Anay, who has over 21 years of personal experience in the industry working as a guide and tour escort in Turkey, to learn more about what this rebranding means for travel agents and their clients.
Lane Nieset: With the rebranding, in addition to reaching the U.S. market, what else are you hoping to accomplish?
Erol Anay: I am hoping that my products are going to work out differently than my competitor’s products, even though they are similar to each other. I put my personal experience in the products since I have been an official guide since 1991. I know the hotels, the flights, how long to stay (in each destination), which restaurant is better. That is going to make a huge difference so the clients will see a much more traditional way, and they can taste and feel the local culture and enjoy more time in the archeological and historical sites.
LN: What are some of the other ways these tours are going to stand out from your competitors?
EA: Our experience. We have been running these tours over 12 years, that’s why we have these local experiences and that is important. When you are local, and you design the packages and products, that makes a huge difference because we are not the company taking a seat in the office and deciding that we are going to this place and that place. We check every single hotel and restaurant. We also check out transportation companies and buses. When you combine all of that, as a result you have such a lovely designed product that clients will like.
LN: What are some of the highlights on the tours?
EA: In every single destination, we want travelers to see the local highlights. For example, we want travelers to taste the local food in Istanbul; or in Cappadocia, we put travelers up in a cave-like hotel so they can feel the local hotels and traditions, because those hotels were once the houses of the local people. We also have other surprises in every destination. For example, we will take travelers to taste Turkish coffee or pick cherries or cotton at the fields and give them information.
LN: Why did you decide to focus on Turkey, Greece and Egypt?
EA: We are in the Mediterranean, and as far as I’ve noticed, overseas clients traveling maybe once or twice in their lifetime pick two countries together like Turkey and Greece or Greece and Egypt, so the airfares are not that cheap. Why not take advantage of enjoying two or three different countries and the cultures. If you’re coming for one or two weeks, you are paying the same (to fly there). Greece and Turkey’s culture, food and mentality is so similar to each other, and we added Egypt because of its political background and heritage.
LN: Are you finding a strong demand for tours in these destinations?
EA: We just started and we are expecting to get more demand in the next couple of months.
LN: Are travelers concerned about safety in these areas?
EA: I can say that in Turkey, crime is very low. We expect that in 2013, over 25 million tourists will have visited Turkey. Lots of clients coming by land tours and cruises with passengers from the U.S. are stopping in Turkey. For this reason, I can easily and honestly say that Turkey is quite safe for travelers. We stopped selling Egypt temporarily…we will check it out when the political situation has calmed down and then start to sell the tours in Egypt. But I think it is going to take over five or six months.
LN: What is the relationship like between the company and travel agents?
EA: I was a travel agent once and now I am a tour operator. We support travel agents and offer high commissions.
Agents will receive 15 percent commission on all land tours through July 31, 2014. Rates start at $890 pp dbl for the 9-day Turquoise Dream trip leaving from Istanbul; rates for the 12-day Turkey & Greece itinerary start at $1,950 pp dbl. For more information, call (800) 958-3635 or visit crossroadstoursintl.com.