Trafalgar is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, but this is not a company that’s celebrating its past. Instead, it’s highlighting the breakthrough programs it’s developed to meet the changing needs of the marketplace with unique and experiential vacation concepts under the umbrella of “Guided Vacations.”
Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar, points out that, “When you’ve been in business for 65 years and you’ve had the joy of people traveling with you for that long—and we have a very high repeat rate, which means basically that over half of our customers travel with us again and again—you need to evolve your product.”
As part of that evolving process, he says, the company developed a whole new program focusing on authentic dining experiences called Be My Guest, which are “…family hosted, family run, with local food and wine in the destination you’re traveling in, unique to Trafalgar, not something anyone can buy or obtain any other way. What we were aiming to do for our 65th anniversary was to have the same number of Be My Guest experiences built into our programs as the number of years we’ve operated.”
The company started the first Be My Guest program in Sorrento, Italy, three years ago and met its goal of 65 programs in Trafalgar itineraries all around the world by its 65th anniversary. One of the latest programs is in Scotland where a Scots couple greets Trafalgar guests at their home and welcomes them to a hall behind their home—a private, several hundred-year-old hall where Rob Roy himself was married. Now that’s unique.
The whole idea, Wiseman says, is to recognize that the 21st century traveler has different expectations, they want unique local experiences, to get away from “tourism 101.”
“That’s where we saw the need to fundamentally change the style of product we were delivering and create what we call Insider Highlights. When you travel with an insider, you get the local knowledge, skip the lines, get the best restaurants and you save time—that’s what an insider will provide for you.… So we created Insider Highlights in our programs and we’ve been very focused on delivering unique local experiences like Be My Guest and also something else we created, a concept called Hidden Treasures,” which, he says, is delivering more than what the client expects from the brochure. “If we can deliver more—a hidden treasure, a great surprise they didn’t expect to see—it just connects people more deeply with the destination and that whole Insider Highlights is what we’ve really focused on and we’ve seen it work very well for us.”
But there are even more concepts they’ve been developing. “We were looking to develop new business lines.… The first was called At Leisure, focusing on very gentle-paced, slow-moving vacations that take people deeply into a particular destination like Tuscany or Provence and still have the benefit of guided vacations, with travel directors and local guides. Then we went into Dedicated Family Experiences, and that meant getting the balance right between what’s fun for adults and what’s fun for kids, which is a great challenge but when you get it right, it’s very, very rewarding.”
This year, Trafalgar has co-branded with Gutsy Women Travel. “Travel for single women or women who want to travel together with friends or family, that’s been on our radar for awhile and Gutsy Women was an established brand, but one that was having problems delivering the right experience,” Wiseman explains. “So they joined with us and we agreed to operate that line of product for Gutsy Women. This is the first year we’ve been in the market with that and it’s very exciting.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is Trafalgar’s partnership with travel agents, and with its focus on product evolution, they keep their agent partners in the loop with equally innovative programs and benefits.
“We have a great online training program called E-Learn, which helps agents either learn or refresh on how to sell the product,” he points out. But that’s not all. “We have a program where every agent who makes a booking gets Trafalgar Travel Cash and they can use that to further subsidize the already generous discounts we give—we’ll give AD50, 50 percent off to a selling agent—and with the travel cash, they can further subsidize that for [Trafalgar destinations]. So they don’t have to make too many bookings before they can go free. That’s a great incentive and it’s there every day.”
But the bottom line, Wiseman emphasizes, are the itineraries. “It’s the number one reason why people buy our product—we go where they want to go.” n
Trafalgar: (800) 854-0103; trafalgaragent.com