Insight Vacations & The 21st-Century Immersive Holiday

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

The coach tour for old people is dead. Long live the 21st-century immersive holiday!

That was the message during a recent visit by Insight Vacations CEO Ulla Hefel Böhler to launch the 2020 season. It wasn’t news to the audience at Toronto’s tasty Lena restaurant. The group of top-selling advisors and consortia representatives are well aware that the guided vacation industry has reinvented itself over the past couple of decades.

(L to R) Brad Ford, Ulla Hefel Böhler and Carla Brake.

And yet, Hefel Böhler says age-old coach tour misconceptions continue among segments of the public. 

Years ago, Insight took on the tall challenge of finding a way to deliver wonderful individual experiences within the confines of a group touring model. It has found success by listening carefully to guests and incrementally adding elements of choice, personalization and flexibility to the product makeup. 

TPI Partnerships Manager Colton Chia (L) with Karen Scott-Caplice,
Director, Advisor Relationships at Travel Edge. 

Sitting fireside-chat style with Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold Canada president Brad Ford, Hefel Böhler, who is clearly passionate about the Insight product, suggested new ways to describe the premium guided vacation experience.

“I think of it as a 21st-century immersive holiday that gets you below the surface of a destination. Our itineraries are handcrafted by experts, and they take your clients to the right place at the right time, and navigate them seamlessly through both must-see sights and authentic experiences they wouldn’t get on their own.”

More Personalization, More Choice

Debuting in 2020 is Insight Choice, a new inclusion offered once or twice during the majority of itineraries. On a given day there are two included excursions, and guests can choose the one that most appeals. In Vienna, they can choose between a Viennese coffee and sachertorte ritual in a historic café or a waltz lesson and concert performance of Mozart. In Killarney, Ireland, travellers can take a scenic ride in a horse-drawn jaunting car or take a leisurely lakeshore hike with a local expert.

The Travel Agent Next Door Founder Flemming Friisdahl with Franca Iuele,
Director of Marketing Ensemble Travel Group and Carla Brake, VP of Sales,
Insight Vacations Canada.

“We’ve added more choice and more personalization to the guided journey,” said Insight VP of Sales Canada Carla Brake.

On the product side for 2020, the biggest news is the triumphant re-emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean for Insight, and the return of the Ancient Civilizations brochure, with 18 itineraries in nine countries.

The Eastern Med Is Back!

“The Eastern Med was so big for us,” Hefel Böhler told Open Jaw. “We kept a small number of itineraries over the past few years, but 2020 is the time for us to go back. Egypt is back, Turkey is coming back and Jordan and Israel are much in demand.” India, Sri Lanka and Nepal are also featured in the Ancient Civilizations brochure.

(L to R) Susan Bowman, VP, Marketing & Industry Relations, Transat, Una O’Leary,
Senior Director, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships, North American Leisure at CWT
and Christine James, VP Canada at TLNetwork.

Another new offering Hefel Böhler is excited about is the 13-day  Country Roads of Wales, Devon & Cornwall, the latest in a series of Country Roads itineraries that get off the beaten path and explore a specific area in depth. On this tour, guests will stay in intriguing accommodations like Bovey Castle in Dartmoor National Park and the Summer Lodge Country House Hotel – a 5-Star Red Carnation property. They’ll do some interesting things too, like a foraging hike in the Brecon Beacons and a meeting with ceramic artist Robert Goldsmith of the renowned Selbourne Pottery.

Brake says Country Roads tours are extremely popular in the Canadian market, and bookings took off as soon as the new tour was announced in a season preview brochure. 

With the new Europe & Britain 2020-2021 brochure now on the racks across the country, Ford says forward bookings are strong, driven by a 10% early payment incentive valid through 18DEC.

“The booking patterns have been shifting,” Ford said. “Peak Europe booking season used to be between FEB-APR, but now much of it comes in the fall. The booking incentive helps, but past guests also know that if they want a particular tour or date, it pays to book early.”


Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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