In a Q&A session with the A&S Journeys group team, we delve into what they offer, how they pull it off and what A&S Journeys is all about.
Regardless of whether you are a professional travel planner or not, finding the right partners is critical to the success of your trip. More and more, our industry is moving away from traditional cookie-cutter itineraries as travelers become more sophisticated, specialized and desire unique experiences tailored to their group.
Organizing travel that pleases these types of groups requires flexibility, attention to detail and a true desire to provide a bespoke experience, while delivering the best of what a destination has to offer. For nearly 20 years, A&S Journeys has excelled at this very endeavor, bringing over 60 years of travel experience to bear with its well-traveled and multilingual senior staff.
Through our interview below, we provide an introduction to this valuable future member of your group travel planning team and share a little of what’s behind their success.
Why do groups use A&S Journeys?
A&S Signature Journeys personalizes all of the itineraries we create making us a great option for both group and individual travel. When a group of like-minded individuals travel together, we include experiences bespoke to the groups’ interests and preference. A&S has designed tours for multi-generational families, groups of friends and special interest groups such as horticultural societies or patrons of the arts. When traveling with a group, our guests are able to experience some wonderfully exclusive touring options which would be less affordable on an individual basis. We deliver engaging cultural exchanges through fun hands-on experiences such as belly dancing lessons in Morocco and exclusive access to conservation projects with experts in the field.
How does A&S Journeys reach travelers?
A&S Signature Journeys reach our travel advisor partners in a variety of ways. We attend target trade shows and participate in events hosted by professional organizations such the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA), the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and CCRA. We provide product updates in our eNewsletters and offer educational webinars. We personalize our service for the Travel Advisor through face-to-face meetings and consultations.
Travel Advisors can depend on A&S in two key ways. First, we realize every travel advisor and every agency is different in their approach, therefore we offer flexibility in our process to accommodate the individual travel advisor. For example, some prefer NETT pricing while others would rather quote a GROSS rate. We also recognize the value in the relationship between the travel advisor and their clients. Nuances of travel are so personal, there is no greater asset a traveler can have than the expertise of a trusted travel advisor. Is the traveler adventurous, seeking a safari in remote location, walking safaris or excursions by mokoro (Botswana’s traditional dug-out canoes)? Does the guest prefer to experience their safari to focus on a certain species or to include hands-on experiences? Understanding the preferences of the travelers allows us to suggest appropriate destinations and handcraft the itinerary. The valuable input from travel advisor partners to guides us in designing the perfect itinerary for their clients. We also support the travel advisor community in their efforts with marketing materials and agency branded itineraries.
Our favorite way to reach new-to-us travel advisors is by word-of-mouth referrals. There is nothing more heartening then an agent who passes along our information to industry friends and colleagues. A&S is delighted to have been nominated for the fourth consecutive year as the Best Vacation Packager for Asia and Africa by the peer-to-peer Travvy Awards, a terrific accolade from our industry partners.
From time to time, A&S Signature Journeys will also host FAM trips. Our last Familiarization Journey was in June 2018 to Morocco and we are planning one to Sri Lanka for a similar time frame in 2019. Traveling alongside our travel advisor partners provides a terrific opportunity to build a personal connection and gain an understand how to support the advisor in building his or her business. We can also showcase our services, level of professionalism and the value A&S provides first-hand.
What types of groups use A&S Journeys? What are the group size ranges and what sized group is most common?
Our groups tend to be affiliated in some way. They may come together through a trusted travel advisor sharing his or her favorite destinations and experiences with clients. They may be the children and grandchildren of a couple wanting to give the gift of time and experience to their family. They may be affiliated with a university organization or a professional society wanting to dig beneath the ‘tourist crust’ and gain a deeper understanding of a subject or an aspect of a culture.
The size of our group varies wildly. Some destinations, such as remote safari locales, naturally limit the number of guests due to the intimate nature safari camps. Other destinations encourage larger group sizes, allowing travelers to gain access to the heart of a culture through shared experiences. A private falconry demonstration in the UAE would be a good example of this. Falconry has been practiced by the Emiratis for thousands of years and learning the art of the sport allows the visitor to gain insights into the cultural heritage and traditions of the local people. The experience can be cost-prohibitive for a couple, but shared amongst a larger group, a falconry demonstration becomes a highlight of the itinerary.
Does A&S Journeys book pre-established trips or offer exclusive group departures?
Yes and No. Everything we do at A&S Signature Journeys is personalized. There are, however, a handful of experiences around the world so limited, we will seek out allocation for our guests in anticipation of the need. The day-to-day itinerary is still very flexible, but we will secure the ‘hard to come by’ in advance assuring our guest don’t miss a beat. One example is the popular Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Inevitably, availability at the best accommodations is limited in Cape Town over this popular weekend. We work with our local partners to secure about 100 rooms in advance, ranging from 3 to 5 star in order to ensure our guests can experience this exceptional weekend.
What’s the touring style? What’s customizable, what’s included and what’s offered?
A&S Signature Journeys creates seamless travel experiences from the moment our guests step off the plane. Our comprehensive tour packages include hotel accommodations, transfers, guided tours and some meals. We are flexible in offering privately operated tours or tours shared with other traveler for those guests interested in a more cost-effective travel experience. Regarding flights, we are able to assist with booking international and internal flights, or can leave this component of the itinerary to our travel advisor partners if they prefer. Personalizing the tour to each group or individual and providing unique experiences is our core strength, for the 5-star deluxe client and the budget-conscious alike.
Where are the most popular destinations where A&S Journeys’ groups are choosing to travel?
En vogue destinations and geopolitical situations are forever evolving. Southern Africa has been popular for the past several years with Cape Town, Victoria Falls and the private game reserves near Kruger National Park being highly sought-after. Morocco is another popular destination. Travel to Morocco provides a wonderful balance of being able to explore a rich culture without having to sacrifice any modern comforts. Costa Rica is a great option, particularly for families, as flight time is relatively short and a cornucopia of hands-on and educational experiences enhance the vacation. With the rise in popularity of anime and manga, Japan is also a popular destination for families. Its rich cultural heritage, scenic beauty and modern infrastructure combine to offer something for everyone.
How many years has A&S Journeys been in the business? How much experience does the group team employ?
Founded in 2001, A&S Signature Journeys now celebrates 17 years in business. The experience of our senior consulting team combined, we offer more than 60 years of experience. We speak four languages and have personally traveled to over 70 countries.
Does A&S Journeys offer any ideas or sample itineraries?
Certainly! There are several sample itineraries on our website at www.ansjourneys.com to offer ideas and suggestions. Each destination offers many options which are further categorized to meet different tour themes and client profiles. We are also available talk through specific requests, sharing our experience and expertise to provide a travel advisor with the confidence and background information to discuss travel plans with clients.