January 28, 2021

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Just Do Travel

How Tour Operators Are Planning for Travel in 2021

5 min read

Tours are going to look different when travel restarts in earnest.

Not only have tour operators made changes for safety circumstances, but travelers will also have increased options and the comfort of navigating a post-pandemic world with the help of guides and experts.

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Travelers are also looking to travel with a purpose and are looking for tours and destinations that allow them to get off the beaten path and discover new places.

Private Tours

Many tour operators now have opportunities for travelers to travel in private groups. CIE Tours, Globus, Adventures by Disney, Trafalgar and others have all started offering these types of trips.

Travelers can customize their vacation with CIE with private driver journeys, custom vacations or, for groups of 10 or more, private group travel experience based on pre-set itineraries or customized trips.

Adventures by Disney now also offers private tours for groups of 12 guests or less but with no minimum age limit to Costa Rica, Egypt, Greece, Italy or Peru with journeys starting in April 2021.

Trafalgar has also announced private tours for small groups who want to travel together. Groups of 12 or more can book an entirely private journey on most of the company’s winter and spring itineraries.

“We know people want to travel but may be apprehensive about widening their circle beyond close family and friends,” said Gavin Tollman, CEO of Trafalgar and Costsaver. “Our private trips are designed to make stepping back into travel easy and comfortable.”

Domestic Tours

Many companies have also added new domestic trips to cater to travelers who would like to go somewhere but are unsure of international travel.

Globus, in particular, has targeted two trends with new domestic trips to off-the-beaten-path destinations in remote locations that travelers are particularly keen to take.

“On our ‘Undiscovered North America’ vacations, we will take globetrotters down the less-traveled highways, legendary lanes and scenic country roads to the special places and parks other tour companies don’t visit,” said Steve Born, chief marketing officer for the Globus family of brands. “These itineraries help travelers discover the world’s tucked-away towns, lesser-known nooks and secluded seafronts for an unforgettable—and unique—vacation.”

These trips take guests to California, North Carolina, New England and the Pacific Northwest.

Small tour company Zephyr Adventures has also cornered the market on domestic tours. When it saw its international tour business falling off due to the pandemic, the company began offering tours in its own backyard—Montana.

“Zephyr Adventures is a small tour company with 24 years of experience running tours around the world,” explained owner Allan Wright. “Our international tours stopped entirely with the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions. The tours we did run were primarily in Montana and we saw an increasing demand for tours in our home state.”

Now, their new brand Travel Montana will debut with 11 tours in the state.

Travel insurance
Travel insurance is an important part of vacation planning. (photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus / Andrei Sauko)

Travel Protection

One of the ways that tour operators are making travelers feel comfortable and safe is to provide them with added protections such as wellness guides, flexible booking options and cancel-for-any-reason plans.

The Travel Corporation (TTC) will offer travel protection plans for COVID-19 for guests in 2021 and beyond.

“At TTC our priority is to provide our guests with peace of mind when booking and traveling on any of our brands, and this includes an improved Travel Protection Plan with Covid-19 coverage,” said Brett Tollman, chief executive of The Travel Corporation. “This plan is an important addition to our booking flexibility, reduced deposit requirements, new Well-being Director position and industry-leading wellbeing protocols which are all designed to instill confidence to travel with our brands in 2021.”

There are two different plans from which travelers can choose; both include COVID-19 protection and cancel for any reason. COVID-19 will be covered if either the client is diagnosed or, at the direction of a government official or medical expert, is required to quarantine.

TTC is also offering buy now, pay later plans and wellness guides to accompany each tour group.

Globus family of brands’ Peace of Mind Travel Plan allows travelers to move vacations to another 2021 or 2022 date, destination, itinerary or even brand in the company’s portfolio with no penalties.

“When travelers choose a Globus or Cosmos tour, today and every day, they can say ‘goodbye’ to worry,” said Scott Nisbet, chief executive officer of the Globus family of brands. “We provide our travelers peace-of-mind with the help and expertise of tour directors, local drivers and on-the-ground travel experts in destinations across the globe. With help from our Global Health & Safety Team, we are also dedicated to providing travelers a stress-free getaway with many safety protocols in place, leaving them free to have fun and enjoy off-the-beaten-path discoveries, engaging in customs and traditions and indulging in new cuisines.”

Young explorers in Antarctica
Young explorers in Antarctica. (P{hoto courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent)

Off the Beaten Path

Where are travelers looking to go to get away? Abercrombie & Kent has found its guests are looking for wide open, socially distanced spaces.

“After months spent at home, travelers are ready to get away, but are asking ‘where can we go that is safe?’” said Abercrombie & Kent founder Geoffrey Kent. “Our guests are looking for places that offer wide-open spaces and lend themselves to physical distancing, or the novelty of exploring a completely new destination, knowing they’re safe in the A&K cocoon.”

A&K’s small-group journeys are already ideally suited for social distancing, and all of its partners are fully vetted to ensure that they comply or exceed with its enhanced safety protocols, including those measures put in place by the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Safe Travels” program, and the “TourCare” guidelines established by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) and the European Tourism Association (ETOA).

Safe Travels

Travelers who are looking to take a tour in the coming year should familiarize themselves with USTOA’s TourCare Guidelines as well as the WTTC’s Safe Travel guidelines. Operators who adhere to these guidelines and those of the CDC and the World Health Organization are likely to offer and adhere to the necessary safety standards to keep guests safe.