Ask Mark Grundy, managing director for Avanti Destinations’ Asia program, how the tour operator’s Asia destinations are doing, and without hesitation, he says, “phenomenal.” In fact, he says, Asia is up 158 percent, and one of the reasons why, he adds, is that people realize that Asia is “good value for the money.”
We got these talking points on Avanti’s Asia program during a private lunch Avanti hosted recently for a small group of South Florida travel agents. Many travel agents at the lunch already book Avanti’s Europe and Latin America product, but wanted to know more about the operator’s Asia product. One travel agent, who had already sent out a proposal to one of her honeymoon clients that included a custom Avanti itinerary to Thailand, mentioned to me that what you get from Avanti in terms of customization in comparison to other tour operator product is unparalleled.
Avanti, for those of you not in the know, creates custom itineraries—as Grundy says, “no two itineraries are alike”—to 16 destinations in Asia: Japan, South Korea, China (including Tibet and Hong Kong), Taiwan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Dubai (offered as a pre- or post-stopover for those traveling to Asia). Within those destinations, Avanti offers a plethora of sightseeing options. Take Myanmar, for example, where your clients can explore the Irrawaddy River in Bagan, the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, and the Shwezigon Paya in Bagan, among a host of other sights. All the while staying in accommodations—many of them privately owned—that “highlight the flavor of the destination,” as Grundy notes. Or, put your focus on Thailand—currently, one of the most popular destinations in Asia—where your clients can set their eyes on the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok and the Wat Jed Yod in Chiang Mai, or explore the hidden cove of Ao Ling, with its famous colony of monkeys.
No matter which destination you choose, says Grundy, Avanti will “put something together that suits your clients’ needs.” Grundy stresses, too, that Avanti, which sells only through travel agents, focuses on recommending “unique experiences such as an excursion to a private home in Tokyo to make sushi, or building homes in Cambodia in a local village.” In Japan, Avanti even suggests a half-day Pop Culture Tokyo tour that has clients exploring Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara, and a maid cafe.
A sample 4-night Laos Essentials itinerary that includes two nights in Vientiane with a private tour, and two nights in Luang Prabang with a private tour starts at $565 pp. And Paula Ruidiaz, regional sales director, Southeast for Avanti Destinations, reminds travel agents that the operator pays 10 percent commission on air, even on business class, “our rates are very, very good.”
And if your are one of those travel agents who has had long wait times while trying to get through to an Asia specialist at Avanti, Grundy says they are currently training staff and within the next six weeks more specialists will be able to take your calls. For more information, visit avantidestinations.com or the travel agent login.
If you are interested in getting a little more personal with Avanti’s president, Harry Dalgaard, we’ve got the scoop in this Coffee Time with Industry Vets column.