Tauck has released its 2019 Exotics brochure with 31 programs and several new offerings. Brand new programs for 2019 include “Kingdoms and Dragons – Singapore to Bali”; “Great Migration –Tanzania and Kenya”; and “Mountain Gorilla Safari – Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda or Tanzania, Zanzibar and Rwanda.”
Programs that have been revamped for 2019 include “Odyssey in China – Beijing, Chengdu and Hong Kong” and “India and Bhutan – Heart of the Himalayas.”
The company continues to grow its portfolio of tours to exotic destinations as the traveling public becomes more experienced and clients seek travel farther into the frontiers of travel.
“The exotics have continued to grow as we add destinations and the world becomes smaller,” said Joanne Gardner, director of operations for land programs. “In North America and Europe, we cover a pretty wide range of the map on those continents, whereas in exotics there’s still a lot of room for growth and we’re taking full advantage of it and seeing the results.”
The growth of exotic travel
For Tauck, the growth of its Exotics portfolio dates back to 1991, when the operator first jumped beyond North America. By that time, Tauck had already been operating in North America for 70 years. But with the traveling public maturing, and with international travel infrastructure growing and making travel to exotic destinations more accessible, many travelers wanted to reach beyond American shores but preferred to take the leap with a familiar operator they felt safe with.
“We had a very loyal following of guests who had taken almost all of our products,” said Gardner, “so it was a great opportunity to not only offer something new to them, but also something new to people who might normally travel on their own to Europe, but may choose a tour operator for someplace a little more unfamiliar, like Asia or Africa.”
In 1991, Tauck released its first European brochure, entitled “The Yellow Roads of Europe,” which referred to the smaller roads on the map that provided more interesting sightseeing than the new superhighways.
That same year, the company also introduced its “Australia-New Zealand” tour, which has continued to be a perennial best-seller until today. That became the anchor for what would grow into Tauck’s Exotics selection.
The company launched Costa Rica in 1994; expanded into China and Southeast Asia in 1996; moved into Galapagos in 1998; offered its first family trip to Antarctica in 2000; and launched Africa in 2001. By that time, the company had enough exotic destinations to publish a separate brochure for them. That was the birth of Tauck’s Exotics brochure.
The portfolio continues to grow in parallel with the public’s exploration of exotic destinations.
“People are more and more interested in places they were maybe not interested in 10 years ago,” said Gardner. “I think we do a phenomenal job bringing our style of travel, the Tauck style, to places that may have been more unfamiliar to our existing traveler.”
Even with 31 entries, the Exotics brochure does not actually cover all of Tauck’s programs to exotic destinations. It includes only the land programs. Tauck’s programs for Antarctica and the Arctic are ship-based so they go into Tauck’s small ship cruising brochure.
Many of the tours to exotic destinations are small group tours because the infrastructure at the destinations does not support the largest groups that Tauck may offer in North America or Europe.
Attracting new clients
The Exotics brochure also serves the purpose of attracting new customers into the Tauck fold, to discover the Tauck style of touring, and usually inspiring them to become return customers trying Tauck in other destinations.
“It brings an array of travelers, whether demographically younger or someone looking for something a little more adventurous,” said Gardner. “The Exotics portfolio also has a large collection of exclusively small group itineraries, so somebody who is interested in a smaller group tends to be drawn towards our exotic tours. We have really seen dramatic growth across the exotics in younger travelers and in our existing travelers.”
While Tauck is seeing healthy growth across the international map, some of the exotic destinations are showing particular promise. Tauck is seeing a resurgence in Africa after a period when media coverage of the West African Ebola scare of 2014 caused many travelers to scratch the entire continent off their bucket lists.
Regions where Tauck is expanding
Since the resurgence, Tauck has expanded its Africa portfolio beyond its traditional East Africa safari programs to now include Botswana and Rwanda.
Asia is also growing for Tauck. “Asia continues to see an uptick,” said Gardner, “in Japan, which has been strong for a number of years, and also a resurgence in China and Southeast Asia. China suffered a little over the last couple of years because of perceptions from a lot in the media about smog, and things like that do impact our bookings, whether it’s perception or reality. Now that’s quieted down so we do see a direct result in our bookings because of that.”
Southeast Asia is also growing for Tauck and the company has also enriched its programs in the region through its partnership with filmmaker Ken Burns. “We’ve expanded our Ken Burns partnership with the release of the Vietnam documentary last fall,” said Gardner. “We now have the filmed vignettes and stories by Ken Burns on our two programs, in ‘Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos’ and also ‘Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.’”
The Exotics selection also includes some tours in its BBC Earth Journeys series, developed in partnership with BBC Earth, the creator of documentary films. The programs for all of Africa and Costa Rica and the India and Nepal program are BBC Earth Journeys.
Tauck hopes that the trust in its brand will make it a strong choice for travel agents booking clients to exotic destinations.
“We would love it if, when travel agents are thinking of sending guests to Africa, Asia, Australia or South America, that they consider Tauck,” said Gardner. “While we may not have as many itineraries to Africa as some Africa specialist tour operators, the ones we do have, have been refined and are exceeding our guests’ expectations.”