The travel industry operates, as do many industries, on it own cycle, only barely related to the seasons changing outside our windows. For us, the summer is long gone, the Fall is over, and our winter planning in its final stages. Our thoughts turn to next summer, and to the development of new programs.
In some ways, travel is like every other business. We try to imagine what our clientele might want to do next year, seek out the components and “manufacture” a program to suit this idea. If we are correct and a lot of folks buy we do well, and if we miss the mark, of course, we do not do so well.
At this point, I am looking to further develop some European programs that will offer independent travellers a basic framework. We will design and offer itineraries that allow travellers to wander through Europe on slightly structured journeys, with the security of nightly accommodation but not the rigidity of a conventional tour program.
There are several up and coming regions that are interesting. North Americans are always a year or two after Europeans, so in a way it is easy to see what is on sale in the UK and then tweak it for our market a couple of years later!
This year we are seeing strong interest in The Caucuses, with travel to Georgia and Armenia in particular showing spectacular growth. I can also see a growing interest in the Balkans, and while Croatia has long led the field of tourist destinations in the region, there is a surge of interest in Montenegro.
This small country, tucked in between Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo is absolutely stunningly beautiful. From the high hiking routes in the heart of the country to the villages strung out along the Adriatic coast, Montenegro offers the exploratory tourist a glimpse of the pre-pasteurised past in a gorgeous and friendly environment.
I am looking at a program that starts in the capital, Podgorica, and heads to the coast before continuing south to Albania, and then to Italy, crossing the Adriatic by ferry. Once in Italy, one can simply head toward Rome to come home, or take the local trains to hug the southern coast as one meanders around the heel and sole of the country to Messina.
A trip that I am contemplating for myself this winter would then take me across Sicily and by ferry to Sardinia, Corsica and back to the French mainland at Toulon. Islands have always fascinated me, as have these sorts of overland journeys, and this rout, from Podgorica in Montenegro to Toulon in France would be a fine way to pass a few weeks!
The south of France is always popular, and we are sensing the growth of guided, outdoor programs in the Pyrenees. We have recently started working with two terrific companies, on the western Pyrenees offering superb guided hikes, staying in the chain of mountain refuges that dot the mountains, and in the Eastern Pyrenees another fine company whose programs combine the culinary and wine delights of the Languedoc with hiking and exploring the ancient Cather Castles. A terrific combination!
There are other regions too; northwest Spain, long neglected by many tourists is becoming popular, and I am heading there in April to travel by local train along the north coast. I have a feeling that it will be like riding to Toronto on the Metro, these are not long-distance railways, but the scenery, overnight stops and the privilege of catching a flake of a remote and fascinating culture.
We will see! Watch the website for these and other signature journeys, and spare a thought for poor me, sitting in my office, daydreaming and creating these programs rather than getting out and playing.