In 2018, 2 million Brits took a cruise, marking a new mile stone for the cruise industry that used to struggle heavily with a lot of misconceptions. Cruise has seen, and continues to see, something of a renaissance in popularity over the last ten years. However, in the 12 months leading up to ABTA’s 2018 Holiday Habits Report (published annually in October), only 5% of Brits had taken a coach holiday, or a rail holiday, and 4% had gone on an adventure or activity holiday. Touring and adventure holidays have their own misconceptions to battle, and here Team Select's Amy debunks some of the most common myths, and explains why you should try a tour!
Touring is just for ‘old people’
For many years, cruising was tainted with the ‘blue rinse parade and God’s waiting room’ brush, but the tide has turned (and average ages decreased), with the ever increasing variety of cruise lines on offer showcasing that there’s something for every generation, even for multi-generational family cruising. For many people, touring is similarly considered a preserve just for the elderly, and it seemingly has yet to shake that reputation off!
That’s not to say that both cruising and touring don’t attract a lot of the 50-plus demographic; they do. The traditional family holiday abroad remains the classic bucket-and-spade package at a family-friendly resort. But once kids have left the nest, parents finally have the freedom to choose different styles of holidays (such as cruising or touring) for the first time, discovering their manifold benefits. This is perhaps why there is an assumption that touring (and cruising) attracts ‘old people’.
However, the definition of ‘old’ is shifting – the goal posts are ever-changing as people work longer, but also remain healthier and fitter for longer. The quality of life for people is generally improving; not only are we living longer, we’re living better. So you won’t necessarily find a coach filled with the likes of Doddery Doris (in fact, given that tour-goers often have to get on and off coaches, a certain level of agility is required).
Ultimately, despite what people may assume, touring brings together a range of people, from all walks of life and different ages – even different countries – who are all bonded by a joy of travel, and a desire to explore the particular destinations on that tour. Age is no restriction to being enthralled by the Taj Mahal, or admiring the artwork in the Rijksmuseum, or savouring fine wines at a vineyard.
Furthermore, there are tours designed especially for millennials – such as Contiki or Topdeck – as much as there are tours which were created for the more mature traveller. If you’re looking to mix with people of a similar age demographic, you can find the relevant group. There are even tours aimed at families, looking to create incredible memories to be shared between the generations.
I wouldn’t enjoy a tour, I don’t want to be herded about on a coach and have no free time
We’ve all seen the tour guide with the lollipop surrounded by a herd of people, while car parks at big tourist attractions are filled with coaches. However the reality of most tour holidays isn’t like that. The CEO of Trafalgar has banned the use of umbrellas or lollipops, for one thing, and those coaches don’t necessarily belong to a touring group! The touring holiday is a travel chameleon, changing its colours to suit each traveller; there are so many different tour operators out there, offering a dazzling array of holidays to suit different budgets, interests, and even how much (or little) hand-holding or independence and flexibility a traveller prefers. The convenience of having transportation, accommodation, and a selection of meals and activities, already arranged is one of the biggest advantages of a touring holiday, ever since the first package tour in 1841. However, each of those components offer so many different variables; the modes of transportation can range from coaches, mini-buses, trains, planes, and even tuk-tuks or cyclos (so you’re certainly not all herded about on a coach!), the accommodation could be an eco-lodge, a local home-stay, boutique family-run hotel, or 4- or 5* Western-standard hotel.
Touring holidays also come in different shapes and sizes; they are not merely coach sized (and we’ve already seen that that’s not the only mode of transportation)! You can choose a private tour, which especially enables everything to be tailored to your interests and tastes, but if you would like to share your experiences while making new friends, many tour operators specialise in small group tours. Like small ship cruising, small group tours benefit from greater accessibility; they can visit smaller towns off the beaten track, enjoy stays in boutique hotels, and you’ll be able to get to know your fellow travellers and tour leader better, perhaps even making lifelong friendships. Smaller groups also enable greater flexibility and even a touch of spontaneity, with moments of wonder and enchantment that simply can’t be planned on an itinerary! Experiences that are organised - from cookery classes to interacting with locals - feel more authentic and intimate with a small group, too.
However that’s not to say that larger groups miss out on the fun, either. Whether you’re indulging in wine tasting, witnessing how traditional artisan crafts are made, tucking into regional dinners with cultural shows, or even enjoying exclusive access to some of the world’s best-known museums or landmarks, touring holidays offer immersive and unforgettable experiences, no matter the group size. The focus has changed nowadays; travellers no longer want to be passive, they want to dive a little deeper, get under the skin of a destination, and tour operators have responded to this need - no matter the size of their groups - to offer a range of activities that enhance your holiday and your experience in the destination, beyond guided tours of landmarks. Destinations are more than just the popular tourist attractions, more than the natural wonders or man-made monuments that enthral us; destinations are about their local food, the traditions that live on, the skills that are still practised, their wildlife, and their people. Nowadays, touring holidays showcase all of these elements of a destination, beyond the ‘panoramic coach tours with tea-and-pee stops’ of old.
Ultimately, it’s your holiday, and itineraries are designed to immerse you, engage you, enchant you, and help you fall in love with a destination and discover what makes it fascinating, but there’s also plenty of free time, too, to soak up the atmosphere, relax, or explore at your own pace. It is possible to find the tour which perfectly balances free time and independent exploration with organised and included activities, that best suits your needs. There’s no herding about on a coach, and there’s certainly free time on a tour! There is no one-size fits all in touring. There are different paces, different styles of touring, different budgets, and some with specialist interests - so much so, that there is a tour out there for everyone!
Adventure travel isn’t for me, it’s all about being an adrenaline-junkie! You’ll never see me jumping out of a plane!
No bungee jumping, paragliding, cage diving with sharks, or other hair-rising activity is required on an adventure travel holiday! The assumption that adventure travel is adrenaline fuelled comes from only the narrowest definition of an adventure, and puts up an unnecessary barrier to some incredible experiences. Whilst some adventure holidays offer up opportunities to hike, bike, kayak, climb mountains, and much more, that is just one strand of a sector of touring that’s highly experiential. However, adventure travel also opens up unique possibilities for authentic and immersive experiences, whilst also giving back to the local community. Adventure travel specialists focus on small groups and sustainable, responsible travel, particularly with a focus on supporting local communities, by employing locals as tour leaders (utilising their unrivalled knowledge of the area), and engaging with local businesses, such as restaurants for authentic local cuisine and family-run hotels for accommodation. There’s also a focus on interacting with local charities, even setting up their own not-for-profit organisations to give back to local communities, such as giving local people new skills to become self-sufficient, from taxi driving to cooking, or creating traditional handicrafts. You can even live life as a local during a home-stay for a few nights! Going beyond the adrenaline, going on an adventure can take you off the beaten path, to smaller villages less visited by tourists, learning about different cultures by interacting with locals, trying new food, seeing how people live differently. Adventure travel particularly focuses on this aspect of travel - and a safety harness isn’t required! The adventure could be sand boarding in the Namib desert, or it could be meeting Namibian villagers and learning about their lives. Flying through the air above the canopy of cloud forest on a zipline could be an adventure, or it could be exploring a Costa Rican coffee co-operative, learning about the process of making coffee, and how it’s empowered the local people. Either way, you’ve experienced something different, new, exciting, and it’s been an adventure. Adventure travel is what you make of it, and it can be as active or as culturally immersive as you want it to be; it can even combine both!
For those who yearn to discover new places on their travels, both cruising and touring promise a convenient and comfortable way to see the world, visiting multiple destinations in one holiday. Whilst cruising boasts the convenience of only unpacking once, touring and adventure travel aren’t restricted by coastlines or waterways (and if your tour includes porterage, you won’t need to worry about lugging your luggage!). A tour enables you to sample local night-life too, particularly if you’re based in a hotel for more than one night; you’re not constantly on the move, on and off the coach, allowing for a leisurely pace at times, and further, deeper exploration of destinations. All the arrangements are taken care of for you - from transportation to accommodation - and enhanced by knowledge and experience of the destination.
Touring has come a long way since Mr Cook took paying passengers for a shilling a head on a one-day return rail trip from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841. This first tour came about in order to broaden the mind and improve the soul, and I believe that travel can, and does continue, to do this. With travellers increasingly looking for authenticity, tours are enhancing guests’ experiences with the ability to connect and interact more with the destinations they’re visiting, rather than simply passively sightseeing. Learning nuggets of information about how different people live their daily lives, or admiring some of the world’s most beautiful attractions - whether man-made or natural - gives food for the soul, and widens our understanding of what it is to live in our world. Tours bring together a range of people from different walks of life, who meet and get to share incredible memories, and learn from each other’s life experiences, possibly even making lifelong friends. The joy of travel knows no bounds, all it requires is an open mind, so discard those misconceptions of touring, and give it a try!
The world is just waiting to be toured and explored!
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