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If you’ve been to Las Vegas, the nearby national parks, or even the Zion Outlet Malls recently, chances are you’ve encountered them: tour groups. The large tour buses (also known as motor coaches) arrive in our area filled with passengers from all over the world, eager to discover southern Utah’s stunning scenery. I assume for many, that might be your only encounter with a group tour.

My first group tour experience occurred 27 years ago when I started working for a tour operator in Salt Lake City. I knew very little about group travel at the time, and my official title was Office Manager. Before I knew it, I was making travel arrangements for groups of travelers from all over Europe and Asia to visit the beautiful national parks in the western United States and Canada. Group tours have changed significantly since 1991, and I don’t think many travelers realize the value of an escorted tour. I hear comments all the time from customers who think escorted tours are too restrictive or feel they are designed for their grandparents. At one time, those statements were probably true, but tour companies of today have found that they are competing with all the bells and whistles offered by cruise lines. Tour companies have changed their tours to accommodate just about every demographic, travel interest, and pace. There are many benefits when it comes to escorted group travel, including:

VALUE & CONVENIENCE: Regardless of the pace, most escorted tours include sightseeing, entertainment, admissions to museums and parks, great hotels, and many meals, making it a hassle-free experience from start to finish. Of course, I must mention they include transportation. Trying to navigate the roads in a foreign country can be very difficult, especially when they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. Many travelers like to leave the driving to the professionals and simply enjoy the beautiful scenery while they travel. Because tour companies negotiate special groups rates, costs are often much less than traveling independently. An escorted tour to Europe, for example, is approximately 15% less than you would pay if you planned it on your own.

TOUR MANAGERS: I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to spend my time on vacation reading guide books or wandering around asking questions, especially in a foreign country. Tour managers are with you every step of the way, handling the tedious details of travel, while you relax and enjoy the trip. They are seasoned professionals with in-depth knowledge about your destination and a passion for sharing it.

PLANNED ITINERARIES: While it is fun to research a vacation, many hours can be wasted trying to figure out the best attractions, restaurants, hotels, etc. Tour companies do the work for you by searching for accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and entertainment to assemble not only a fantastic trip, but create an entire experience that captures the culture of your destination. Attractions include everything from learning the secrets of Tuscan cuisine from a Florentine chef in Italy to feeding a kangaroo in Australia. Tour companies pride themselves on providing unforgettable experiences around the world.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Tour companies of today cater to almost every travel style. Regardless if you are a fast-paced traveler who does not want to miss a thing, or someone that wants free time to explore on your own, there is a tour for you. Escorted tours are offered on all seven continents, and range from small groups of just 16 passengers to groups of 44 passengers. There are itineraries that cater to special interests, including culinary travel with cooking lessons, wine tours with visits to vineyards, architecture and history tours, and traveling with naturalists to the Galapagos. Hotels range from convenient locations in the heart of the city to villas and castles in the countryside.

SAFETY: My mother always taught me to “go as a group.” When tourists were ordered to leave Egypt, passengers traveling on group tours were led to chartered airplanes and flown out immediately. Traveling with a group tour operator provides a level of safety and security that independent travelers simply do not receive.

NEW FRIENDS: The consultants in our office and our clients have had the pleasure of traveling with several groups. Each time, we return with new friends from around the country. Our agency offers several group tours from our area to various destinations around the world. It is so fun to see people from our own community arrive as strangers and return as friends.  

I realize that there are many travelers that enjoy the thrill and excitement of packing their backpack and “playing it by ear.” However, we live in a society of convenience, and there are many passengers that want to take the guesswork out of their vacation. Having a pre-arranged itinerary with most meals, attractions, and transportation included is a worry-free way to discover a new destination. If you would like to experience a group tour closer to home, consider our Southern Charm departure April 27-May 3, 2019. Visit Jekyll Island, Savannah, Charleston, and more! Call (435) 628-3636 for details.

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