Strategic Partnerships Help Tour Operators Drive
Post-Pandemic Business

Strategic Partnerships Help Tour Operators Drive Post-Pandemic Business

Strategic Partnerships Help Tour Operators Drive
Post-Pandemic Business

Multi-day tour operators — largely shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic — have come back in force by resuming and revitalizing tours this year. In many cases, they do so using new products that were prepared in the pause.

Many tour operators took a break from their business to form creative and strategic partnerships with other organizations. These collaborations have resulted in numerous new tours and a broader client base.

Insight Vacations is partnering with Anneka Manning (Australian author, founder of BakeClub), to create a Tasmanian food tour.

Ulla Hefel Bohler (CEO of Insight Vacations), said that the idea was born during the pandemic. Insight Vacations had never conducted any tours in Australia before the outbreak.

What was the secret to this collaboration? Bohler stated that Manning and Insight Vacations Australian managing director Karen Deveson were friends. They realized that they would benefit from working together to design a premium Insight journey, which will be available to both BakeClub guests as well as Insight’s customers. This will give them the opportunity to experience a local foodies adventure.

“Insight Vacations as well as Anneka Manning each had a loyal following of Australians, so given the impossibility of international travel, the idea was to marry up the premium guided tours the Insight Vacations guests love with some exceptional foodie experiences through Anneka and her contacts and to also give Anneka’s fans an opportunity to travel with her.”

Insight Vacations wasn’t the only one to come up with new ideas in a pandemic-stricken year 2020. In a survey of 900 global tour operators and agency owners conducted last year, 41 percent of respondents said creating new products and adjusting the business model were their main measures during the pandemic.

One alliance was formed during the pandemic to encourage travelers to help others. The sweepstakes was created by smarTours, a tour operator that partnered with CVS Health in the United States. Eligible customers who received a vaccination through CVS Health over a six-week period starting on June 1 could enter the #OneStepCloser sweepstakes, which included smarTours providing six international tours for two guests — to either Thailand, Ireland, Peru, Greece, Egypt or South Africa — to winners.

Christine Petersen, CEO of smarTours said that the partnership was formed because the team at smarTours looked into obstacles to post-pandemic growth. Widespread vaccination is essential, but vaccination offers for donuts or shared rides seem to be missing the point.

We wanted to think deeply about the needs of people post-pandemic. It didn’t take long to connect with the right people at CVS and fortunately, they were already in the midst of a White House initiative that we had joined.”

It’s not clear if CVS received more vaccinations than Petersen, but she stated that “any time we are able to help Americans move forward in taking care of themselves, it is a success.” Petersen said that the partnership helped increase smarTours visibility, as the company experienced an increase in its organic traffic.


SmarTours may be able to offer international travel, but other tour companies have to concentrate on local tourism. One prominent company — Contiki — has had to pivot from its large-scale trips that often take groups of at least 20 travelers across multiple borders to something much smaller.

Adam Armstrong, CEO of the company said that he knew that there is still demand for experiences in social groups.

So the company launched a series of excursions this summer with small local tour operators called the Detour Mini Adventures. Armstrong stated that the entire Detour Mini Adventures brand was created during the pandemic.

Mini Adventures offers three-day yoga and surf retreats in Devon, the U.K. and four-day wild swimming and hiking excursions in Scotland’s Cairngorms. Armstrong asks how Contiki managed to establish partnerships with local tour companies while the Mini Adventures concept was being developed by its product development team.

He said that “our partnerships with small operators has developed in many ways.” Some of the suppliers were former Contiki travellers who approached us after seeing our Detour Mini Adventure Programs. Others are ex-Contiki employees who went on to set up their own small businesses. The rest we found through our travels and hearing about the amazing things they do.

Armstrong believes that Mini Adventures is a great business venture. He said, “It’s allowed us diversify our trip offerings.” Mini Adventures lets us test out new product ideas before we fully launch into other destinations and trip types.

Contiki’s latest offerings are attracting customers. Armstrong stated that for surf and yoga in Devon we’ve run two seasons with sold out seats, 2021 and 2020. We have two departures for hiking or wild swimming in Cairngorms. (And) we’ve also booked dates with our suppliers 2022 to bring back more people.”

These trips represent about half the activities we’ve done in the UK over the last 18 months.

Not just temporary offer

Armstrong believes that the Mini Adventures were created by Contiki during the pandemic-induced pause. He stated that the travel preferences of young people have changed and they no longer want to go on two or three week-long adventures.

Contiki is not alone in trying to make what appears like a temporary item a part of its regular program. Insight Vacations has taken its BakeClub to the road after the success of the October offer.

Bohler, Insight Vacations said that they are working on an incredible itinerary for the South of France. This will once again be inspired by Anneka’s connections and unique foodie experiences. It is synonymous with food so France was an easy choice. Italy, or Austria could certainly be the next contender.

Photo credit: Contiki offers a Surf and Yoga Adventure for travelers in Devon. Contiki

Publited at Wed., 18 August 2021 05.28:40 +0000

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