Collette offers the Collette Explorations line, which takes 12 to 24 people on tours to 14 locations.
“The product line is fitting for a seasoned traveler who has already traveled the world,” said Maria Fruci, public relations specialist. “They visit less-traveled sites, experience life as a local in vibrant cities, dine in intimate restaurants, engage in specialty tastings and chef-led demonstrations, and even share a meal with a local family. The accommodations truly reflect the regional lifestyle.”
Fruci said that in Explorations’ small-group itineraries, the Plains of Africa and Italy’s Treasures are the most popular tours among chambers, alumni and bank groups. The Costa Rica: A World of Nature tour has also been popular with chamber groups.
“The Plains of Africa tour is a favorite for many reasons, including not only the game drives that search for the ‘big five’ and up-close-and-personal encounters with a giraffe and accommodations in the midst of it all, but personal interactions with Masai villagers and students from the Tenderfeet Education Center, an institution supported by Collette’s charitable foundation, Collette Cares,” she said.
Italy’s Treasures includes a four-night stay in a Tuscan villa.
“Individuals have a choice of excursions that offer immersive experiences with the local culture,” said Fruci. “They can cruise on scenic Lake Maggiore past islands, villas and historic palaces and visit the impressive Borromean Palace, or visit an ancient village nestled in the mountains where you stop at a local farm to sample their artisanal cheeses paired with the region’s delicious wines.”
Fruci agreed that small group travel is a key to bringing in travelers who are independent and unfamiliar with the concept of group travel.
“This is not only for people who have already traveled the world and are ready for more in-depth experiences, but also for those people who have traveled by themselves,” she said.
Small by Design
From the perspective of the person leading the group, traveling with fewer numbers can be described as nothing but a joy, according to Lois Dunbar, director of Voyagers with Prairie State Bank and Trust in Springfield, Illinois. Unlike Kurasek, Dunbar rarely travels with more than 25 people.
“Most importantly, one of the reasons people say they travel with us is because we keep our group small,” said Dunbar. “But for me, it is simply easier to take care of 25 people than 50. From airports to restrooms to hotel check-ins to restaurants — you name it when it comes to leading a group — it makes my job so much easier and enjoyable. Having more room on a motorcoach is also a major plus. It is simply more comfortable.”
From day trips to Chicago to see a Broadway production to an Alaskan cruise to an Ireland tour, Dunbar said smaller groups give her the opportunity to interact with her travelers on a more personal level.
“We all get to know each other better, even on those occasions when we are partnered with another group to meet a tour operator’s requirements,” she said.
Conversely, small group travel is undoubtedly more expensive than traveling with 40 or 50 people.
“I do have to price my trips with the smaller size in mind,” said Dunbar. “That is when I have to emphasize the benefits the travelers receive, the personalized service and all that makes these trips unusual.”