Planning a Trip

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Why do travelers choose one destination rather than another? The Close-Up discusses factors to keep in mind when promoting international travel.

If travelers go abroad, they must meet the regulations of foreign governments regarding border crossings. Often they must consider political conditions and health concerns. These regulations and concerns change constantly, and so we will not describe them for each country, but you can google the relevant laws per country and per traveler.

Key elements in planning a trip are discussed in each unit: what things a traveler might see and do at the destination, options for transportation, and choices for accommodations. The more you know about each of these elements, the better you can meet the needs of travelers.

What Things to See and Do

Special interest travel has increased dramatically. Interests range from physical adventures, such as hiking or water and winter sports, to gambling, wine tasting, cooking, shopping, and theater. Look for the Profiles in various units that discuss shopping opportunities.

Transportation

Travelers can choose to go by plane, ship, train, automobile, or motorcoach. Long-distance sea travel today is rarely an option, although ferries continue to provide plenty of water transportation, and riverboat tourism has increased mightily. When people travel by large cruise ship, they usually do so for the sake of the cruise itself. The ship, in a sense, has become the destinations. Cruise lines have introduced itineraries and features that appeal to all tastes and pocketbooks. U.S. train travel has lagged far behind Europe’s and Japan’s. Tours that use trains for transportation and accommodations and stop for sightseeing continue to be popular.

Many destinations offer unusual forms of transportation: monorails at theme parks; hovercrafts across channels, harbors, and bays; helicopter rides over scenic regions; cog rails (gears that connect small trains to the rail bed, allowing the trains to climb a hill); foniculars (counterbalanced cable rail cars used on steep inclines; one car ascends as the other descends); and ski lifts in mountain territory. There are also camel rides in the desert, elephant rides in the jungle, horseback rides at guest ranches, raft rides through white water, river and sea kayaking, zip lines in the air, and bicycle treks. Emphasis on physical fitness has made hiking and biking trips popular.

Accommodations

Around the world people can find hotels just like those in North America, but they can also find accommodations that reflect the area’s culture and provide special travel experiences.

Tours

Transportation, accommodations, and activities are put together and priced by tour operators in a process called packaging. Packaged tours can be divided into three categories: independent, hosted, and escorted.

An independent tour is a prepaid package of travel elements. The elements are usually air, ground transportation at the destination, and lodging. Travelers on an independent tour never see anyone from the tour company; they present vouchers provided by the tour operator or travel counselor to the supplier of the transportation or lodging facility. At the destination they are free to do as they wish.

A hosted tour includes the same prepaid elements as independent tours. The difference is that a host is available at the destination to assist the travelers. Hosted tours primarily go to one destination, such as to a resort or to London.

An escorted tour is a structured program of prepaid transportation, lodging, sightseeing, and certain meals accompanied by a person who meets the travelers at the destination and stays with them for the duration of the trip. Usually, participants on an escorted tour are part of a group, although it is possible to have a private escorted tour. Group size varies. Movement characterizes an escorted tour, and a key benefit is having the escort to help with logistics. Tour escorts know the territory and how to smooth over difficulties.

At first glance many tour packages may look alike, but in fact, variations can spell the difference between a satisfied traveler and a potential lawsuit. 

✓ CHECK-UP

Key divisions of the travel industry are:

✓ Business travel.

✓ Leisure travel.

Elements of a trip include:

✓ Things to see or do.

✓ Transportation.

✓ Accommodations.

CLOSE-UP: PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

Who is a good prospect for international travel?

International travel requires time, money, and desire If time and money are available, why do some people travel and some people stay at home? Why don't both types of people have desire? To find the answers, qualifying the traveler becomes the most important part of the travel sale You must question the prospective travelers before suggesting destinations. You can pick up clues by asking such questions as "Where have you been before that you enjoyed?" or "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?"

Where would they go? It is possible to define the character of destinations in terms of the types of people they appeal to. The timid traveler is generally happiest nearest home, visiting a beach, theme park, or gambling resort for a bit of fun. The adventurous traveler seeks the new, the exciting, or the destination with a lot of personal challenges, such as travel to a lesser-known part of a region or some sort of physically demanding adventure.

When is the best time to go? A destination's seasons obey no hard-and-fast rules, but they are generally set on the basis of demand as high, low, or shoulder. Each season has its attractions and drawbacks.

  • High season is the time when a destination is in most demand with prices at their highest and crowds at their worst. The climate of the traveler's home influences the traveler's choice. For example, it is the temperature back home that makes winter the high season for the Caribbean, not the temperature of the Caribbean, an area where temperatures fluctuate little.
  • Low season, an area's time of least demand, prices are lower, and there is less crowding. Between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is typically low season.
  • Shoulder season, a time when demand is neither high nor low. Shoulder seasons occur in spring and fall. They are times of better value, chancy weather, and middling crowds and are growing more popular with travelers who have no time constraints and can go when they wish.

Your clients make the following objection: "You are suggesting a trip to France for our vacation. Although we love the country, we have been there several times. Isn't there someplace new we can visit?" How would you respond? To renew an experienced traveler's interest, you do not always have to suggest a new destination. You might repackage the tried and true. Suggest taking a new mode of transportation, such as a barge tour, or concentrating on a special interest, such as a wine, cooking, or bicycle tour.

Learning about the Destination

Destination geography is a complex subject, immense, and ever changing. You cannot depend on personal experience. One expert suggests that if you have not been someplace in two years, you have not been there.

Only through continuous education can we keep up with change. Personal travel, training programs, the Internet, books, magazines, TV, films, videos trade sources, and networking with peers are ways to learn about destinations. You should become familiar with the following key resources:

  • Atlases and dictionaries. For spelling and pronunciation of place-names, see a specialized dictionary such as Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary. 
  • Government resources. When questions involve safety, health, or custom and documentation regulations, it is best to turn to authoritative sources such as government agencies and publications—for example, the State Department for documentation rules and safety warnings and the Centers for Disease Control for health considerations.
  • Guidebooks. Time-specific information is more easily updated online than in books, but illustrated guidebooks are good for portraying a country’s history and culture.
  • Networking. Networking with peers is one of the best ways to learn and hear varying viewpoints.
  • Film. Viewing films made on location helps you to learn physical and cultural geography and even history. The Travel Channel and PBS stations are easy-to-access resources.

As you begin to know where to go or the person to ask to get answers to your questions, you are developing vital research skills. The old saying “Practice makes perfect” still holds. Technology may shorten distances, but the person who wants to see what’s over the next hill will always be around, needing information and seeking the travel professional who can provide the answers.

Evaluating Tour Packages

Here are some guidelines for evaluating tour packages

Itineraries How many times will the travelers have to pack and unpack?

How many days will be spent in each destination?

Will the travellers be able to see the destination in depth, or will they have time for only a quick overview?

Hotels and Locations Most tour companies categorize their hotels as tourist, first class or deluxe. Does the tour company's category mesh with industry ratings? 

Where is the hotel in relation to the city center?

What amenities are offered?

Meals Are they included? If so, how many? Are menus set, or can travelers order à la carte?

Sightseeing Is sightseeing included or "optional" (at extra cost)? 

Do excursions "view" (just drive by) or "visit" (stop and enter) an advertised attraction?

Transportation Are the motorcoaches small vans or large coaches? 

Do they have bathrooms? 

Will the guide rotate seats?

Travel Time per Day Is the traveler OK with the amount of movement? 

Few people enjoy traveling more than 8 hours a day.

Terms and Conditions What does the brochure say about cancellation penalties, final payment requirements, and tour inclusions and exclusions?