Tour operators offer special immersive experiences for curious, active travelers.
Lauralee Dobbins of Medford, New Jersey, ate cuy (guinea pig) for dinner at the modest home of a local family outside Cusco, Peru. Nancy Hamilton Musser of Bonita Springs, Florida, visited the home of a family in Beijing. Jim Green of Lakewood, California, learned to make cheese when he visited Hovensloot, in the Netherlands.
More than ever, travelers are seeking these kinds of authentic local interactions, but it may come as a surprise that each of these experiences was part of an escorted tour, or guided vacation. Many tour operators include immersive activities in their offerings, says Kenneth Shapiro, editor in chief of industry publication TravelAge West. “Today’s tour participants are not interested in just seeing something; they want to participate,” he says.
These days, guided vacations can include cooking classes, hikes, bike rides, or even home visits. “A lot of the credit goes to baby boomers; they’re active and curious, and not content to just sit back,” says Shapiro. Although tour operators have been offering immersive activities for several years now, Shapiro notes that the social media landscape—and the constant pressure for Instagram bragging rights—has sent the trend into overdrive.
Operators are obliging these experience-hungry travelers. Insight Vacations’ Luxury Gold, for example, includes admittance to the Tower of London’s nightly Ceremony of the Keys on some England tours. Trafalgar offers a traditional tea ceremony on several Japan tours. And on some AAA Member Choice Vacations to Finland, tourgoers can command their own dogsled.
[These are the advantages of taking a guided tour.]