Designing a tour for your pleasure takes more work behind the scenes than I think anyone imagines. I’m thinking of recent requests that I had from two different sources when travelers have asked me to put together an itinerary with certain specifications, for a group of their friends or colleagues. Keeping in mind there is a lot of competition out there, the first thing we’re asked to do as tour operators is fulfill all the requirements put forth for a trip to Italy that is memorable for a group, then most likely, keep within a certain budget. More often than not, the two requests are not compatible. So, many emails must fly back and forth before the real negotiations begin. Tour operators, especially if they don’t live in the country where they lead tours, have a very small profit margin and mostly do this activity for the love of travel and the countries they work in.
Behind the scenes, again, someone like me will spend hours on the internet, phone, skype, etc. researching things such as lodging, prices for airfare and other transport involved . Then countless more hours getting information from the guests requesting a tour. I’ve counted the number of emails between just one group, which did not include my research and it amounted to over 100! We also had several phone conversations. And even after all that this particular group didn’t choose to travel with me in the end, which sometimes happens. They worked with a larger company who could afford to offer an extra couple of days on the trip because they do business in volume. That doesn’t sound like a vacation to me, so I stick with the smaller groups, get to know people and what it is they are looking for as an experience that will be fulfilling and memorable.
Italianexcursion.com has designed many different themed tours. There is a yoga tour complete with yoga teacher at a retreat center. An art tour where a guest artist holds classes in sketching, water colors and acrylic painting. We of course, have food and wine tours though every tour does include a focus on food and wines of the area where we stay. We feature tours for wellness and tours exclusively for women, tours for family reunions and one upcoming tour with an expert in Soul Collage and Tarot. Keeping travel in the Italian countryside interesting is the way we keep our small group tours alive for us, too.
As the leader of a small group in Italy I like to think of the group as my guests. I want them to be comfortable with me and with one another, have most of their expectations met,(we all have ideas in mind about what it is we want to experience), and go home with a sense that they know the people of that country and culture previously unfamiliar to them, a bit better. In order to produce such results it takes countless hours of communication, research and clarification. And to me, that’s a large part of the fun of creating these tours. It’s sort of like the sense of accomplishment one feels having put together a puzzle with 5000 pieces! Thought it might be interesting to know just a little about what goes into your special small group tour. Hope to see you on one of our 2015 trips to Italy!