Paul Wiseman // © 2017 Paul Wiseman
Feature image (above): Tourist on Pont de la Concorde in Paris at dusk // © 2017 Getty Images
Earlier this year, Trafalgar announced that its extensive portfolio of 109 guided trips in Europe and Britain and 17 tours across Asia will feature "definite departures" this summer. Under this status, all booked trips will be guaranteed — a reflection of the company's effort to simplify the sales process for agents when they book with the company.
Paul Wiseman, president of the tour operator, has been with the company since 1999. He views this latest development as a way to strengthen the professional relationship with travel advisors.
We sat down with Wiseman to learn more about definite departures and how the news will affect the company's future.
What sparked the idea to have definite departures on this year's summer trips to Asia, Europe and Britain?
The reality of that kind of achievement is based on the volume of sales. There's no way we could achieve 100 percent definite departure status of our entire program unless we were seeing very dramatic increases in sales across not just our Europe itineraries but, in fact, Trafalgar worldwide.
It actually goes back to around five years ago, when we decided to transform Trafalgar from the traditional type of tour operator into a very modern, experiential company. We've been working on the product and evolving the product and experiences, and then the final piece for us was working with our travel agent partners on our marketing and communications. All of those things came together, and we have seen massive sales growth in 2017.
Can you tell us a little more about your relationship with agents?
We run a minimum of three travel agent advisory boards every year, and we select a variety of partners to participate. We have all the different business models represented, whether it be brick-and-mortar agencies or home-based agencies. These advisors have been steering us in the direction of more authentic and effortless experiential travel.
We alone can come up with new products, and we can come up with new marketing communications, but if that doesn't work for our travel agent partners, then it won't work at all. Definite departures are extremely important, too, because travel advisors can feel confident that all the arrangements are going to be solid.
Why did you choose Europe, Britain and Asia for these departures?
The customers decide what they want to do rather than having us decide for them. We've seen a huge resurgence in the popularity of Europe travel, and the core and the heart of Trafalgar is in its Europe itineraries. There are a couple of other factors helping that, too, such as a strong U.S. dollar and low airfares. Asia, for us, has also shown steady growth for many years now, and I think more Americans are ready to discover Asia.
Are there any plans to expand these definite departures beyond 2017 and to other destinations?
Absolutely. We think that we're entering a golden era of travel for our style of product. When we talk about Trafalgar, we talk about being with the customer and their agent all the way. The reality is that the world has changed, and our kind of product is very high-touch. We have a great level of customer care with our clients when they're traveling with us, and that makes it easy for agents to book with us.
If sales are continuing the way they are now, we're going to have the best results in a decade. And for a company that's been around for almost 70 years, that's really quite something.