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The tours industry is expansive and wide-ranging – and we don’t just mean in the global sense. Of course, one of the major driving forces and sectors of the tour industry is global holiday tours and experiences sold to various demographics and target audiences in line with their budgets and interests, with all manner of different sites offering tour packages, deals and discounts. But it isn’t just global tours which are dominating the tour industry – local tours, sites of special interest, guided tours and historical tours all have a place within the industry as a whole and are responsible for much of the interest and popularity generated across specific destinations and cultural interests.
Let’s take a common example – museum tours. These may not offer the same global experiences, sites, and sounds as a worldwide tour or a travel tour, but what they do is turn the experience of visiting a museum into something which is backed up by the expertise and knowledge of a tour guide or audio guide. And so it becomes clear that far from being some relegated to big spending and weeks away from home, tours can be both big experiences and more local experiences, with the main gist of a tour being something which offers consumers expert insight into a place which they have chosen to visit and learn more about.
Most destinations and sites which offer tours are also open for those who simply wish to walk around unguided. In fact, consumers engaging in tours will often find themselves coming across groups of other visitors who are not partaking in a tour and are instead enjoying the setting for its face value. What is interesting to observe from the outside of the industry is how these two types of consumer interact with the same locations – do tours change the way in which consumers experience sites? Does the extra knowledge afford by a tour enhance their overall experience?
This is the area of the tour industry which has created entire businesses out of organising holidays for families, individuals, couples and groups. Essentially forming an entire industry on its own, the global tour sector is made up of sites and companies which create package deals using local research and tying together local experiences across different destinations – with their value lying in the fact that they do the hard work so that the consumer doesn’t have to.
What these tour operators and companies do is create tour holidays tailored to different demographics and target audiences, so that consumers can have a chance to travel and experience new sites and cultures with likeminded individuals who are likely to find the same things interesting as them. A great example of this is coach tours and cruise tours which pool together specific demographics, such as Saga cruises for the over 50’s, and Intrepid Travel tours for younger adventurers who are looking to immerse themselves in different areas. Another common example looks more specifically at sporting tours, with companies offering cycling groups and walking groups different options and experiences in well known rural and city locations.
When it comes to locating the perfect global tour for any select group, one of the major choices facing consumers is whether they want to opt for a city break or more of a country escape. Everything from the food and drink to the cultural references and working holiday experiences can differ depending on the kind of tour that a consumer books, and so the most successful retailers and tour operators within the industry tend to be those which give consumers a choice of filters to narrow their search through – including if they are interested in historical tours, cultural tours, artistic and creative tours, countryside and natural tours, or foodie tours.
Some of the best and most well known operators in the tours industry include:
One of the major trends in the tours industry is the rise in specially themed tours – designed to enhance attractions and experiences and fulfil specific demands of consumers. A great example of these kinds of themed tours include haunted building tours of cities like London and York in the UK, filmset tours of studio sets and location shoots, and even celebrity home tours across the like of LA and Hollywood. Despite attracting very difference audience bases, what all these examples have in common is that they have created tours out of very specific areas of interest: serving consumer demand to learn more about areas of interest which they previous may have only been able to read about or see pictures of. These kinds of specialist tours are designed to give consumers a behind the scenes look at sites and locations which they may otherwise have not been able to see – or else they turn very ordinary sites into areas which suddenly become a lot more interesting once viewed through the lens of the accompanying stories and myths which surround them.
Another trend which is making waves in the tours industry is the rise in bus tours and vehicular tours which are able to cover greater areas and more sites – all under the expertise of a spotlight tour guide whose job it is to bring different areas to life. Some of the examples listed above are best observed through bus tours, for example the celebrity homes tours in LA which have become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. To look at the bus tours sector of the tour industry, it soon becomes clear to consumers that there is no set pricing structure and that many operators are offering their own standalone tours as individuals rather than as business franchises – that is, they purchase a bus or mini van and create their own start-up, using local knowledge as a driver to attract captive consumers. While this is no doubt a good thing for consumers, presenting a good opportunity for those who are happy to haggle a price to its lowest possible figure, these kinds of tours present a need to be vigilant and careful. The tour industry is one which lends itself to both reliable tour operators and those which are not checked or verified – and so consumers should take care when engaging with a tour guide advertising on the street.
Boats tours are another great example of a tour which utilises the expertise of locals and combines their experience and know-how with the beauty of a boat ride experience for the consumer. Boat tours are commonplace across coastal towns and destinations all over the world, each offering their own package deals and promises based on the local marine life and what a consumer is likely to see or experience. Some of the most common examples include whale watching and dolphin watching tours, fishing tours, sunset tours and island-hopping tours, and for those looking at experiencing a boat tour many of the most viable and reliable options are advertised and booked by hotels during holiday breaks.
Looking back at the global tours sector of the industry, another trend which is becoming ever more prominent in the industry is the desire for experiential travel and tours which offer working experiences as well as mere travel sites and sounds. For many modern consumers, particularly those from younger generations, seeing a city or new country from the tour stops is no longer enough – they want to get under the skin of a culture by really living it, spending days and weeks working with locals and living in the heart of the community in order to really immerse themselves and soak in the essence of a place. As such, working holidays are becoming much more of a focus in the tours industry, creating and providing third party operators which manage the opportunities for consumers across thousands of different locations and working styles – both in the UK and abroad. These kinds of opportunities and experiences use the basic outline of a tour and place consumers in package deal sites where they receive accommodation and food in exchange for their volunteering work and assistance – with common examples including livestock and arable farms, fruit picking sites and vineyards, animal sanctuaries and charity organisation sites.
And finally, to the rise in food and drink tours, as consumers continue to seek experiences which utilise and engage the different senses. Head on any city break or holiday and you will likely find some kind of food or wine tour available – with the most popular often referencing and introducing the city or location’s most famous delicacies and dishes. In Germany this could be beer; in Italy it could be wine; in Switzerland it could be chocolate. What these kinds of tours play on is the spotlight through which various locations are viewed by consumers, creating complete experience which are based around the areas and features which make a place popular.
The tours industry is one which capitalises on what makes a country, a city, a location or a building interesting and exciting – and creates experiences which reinforce that interest and fulfil consumer demand to be entertained and educated. With many operators dominating the tours industry, finding the right tour is all about selecting the preferences and interests of the consumer, ascertaining budgetary restrictions, and searching for those operators which provide the best package deals and discounts.
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