Insight’s John Boulding: Today’s Travellers Aren’t My Parents

with Bruce Parkinson

Jeff Element, President, The Travel Corporation Canada; Shona Finnie, Insight Tour Director & John Boulding, Insight Vacations CEO.

V.P. Sales Insight Canada Carla Brake is flanked by Dana Welch, Manager, Canada, Tourism Ireland and Antje Splettstoesser, Director, Marketing & Sales Office, German National Tourist Office.

Jeff Element with Laura Pena Alberdi, Consul in Charge of Tourism Affairs, Embassy of Spain in Canada.

In the early years of his long and successful career in guided travel – then called escorted touring – Insight CEO John Boulding’s parents sometimes came on tour. Things were different then: it really was about sight-seeing, not sight-experiencing.

“Like their contemporaries they were happy to be led around and shown the sights. They were looking for different things. Today’s guest is driven by experiences and the opportunity to get engaged,” Boulding said.

The tall and perpetually enthusiastic leader and his Insight teammates saw the changes coming, and began the process of reimagining the product over a decade ago. But even Boulding never quite imagined how far it would go.

Boulding illustrated the experiential nature of the radically redesigned product with a story. On his fly-in visit to Canada he made a quick side trip down to Memphis to join an Insight Gold media FAM. Graceland is a must see in the area, of course, but the way Insight Gold guests see it is far different than other visitors.

“We arrived at Graceland after hours and had a private tour led by George Klein, an American DJ and TV host who also happened to be best man at Elvis Presley’s wedding. Then we had a private dinner in the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum at Graceland. These are things I never would have believed you could do on a tour.”

At a recent Insight lunch over delicious Italian cuisine at Terroni in Toronto, top-sellers, tourist board representatives and others joined to celebrate the season and spend time with Insight staff, including Insight Canada President Cris David and Jeff Element, President, The Travel Corporation Canada. Another special guest was long-time Insight Tour Director Shona Finnie.

Finnie shared a story with Open Jaw about a tour she led in Italy that included the Isle of Capri. On the boat ride back to the mainland she noticed that one of her guests had a tear in his eye. When she asked why he explained that he had been saving little bits of money for 4 decades, so he could take his wife on a dream trip for their 40th anniversary.

“It was so much more than I ever expected,” he told her. Finnie says the experience reminded her to always treat her guests as if they were on “their 1st and only tour.”

Boulding summed up the modern guided travel experience as offered by Insight this way: “It’s not about the group anymore, it’s about the individual. And it’s amazing what we can offer them.”

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