Myanmar, Bhutan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia: Many of the world’s most intriguing and exotic destinations lie in Asia, a continent whose enormous size is matched by its wealth of diverse cultures, landscapes and experiences.
Asia sits on the opposite side of the planet from North America, and it can take a day or more of air travel for groups to reach destinations there. Those that make the long trip will be rewarded by sights, smells and sensations entirely unlike anything they have experienced elsewhere.
Taking a group to Asia might be one of the most rewarding experiences of your travel career. To help get you started, we asked three tour operators with expertise in the area to give us their best insights on the continent.
Leslie Overton, managing director
Dawne Andrews, product manager, exotics
Asia Transpacific Journeys
Kirsten Louy-Nasty, CEO
What are your top-selling itineraries to Asia?
Overton: Japan is very popular right now. It has really come back from the earthquake and tsunami [of 2011]. In the last 12 months, it has grown 300 percent for us. There are times when it’s even hard to find hotels in Japan.
Always strong for us are Vietnam and Cambodia. Those are great destinations from a cultural standpoint, and they offer great experiences. The food in Vietnam is truly exceptional. Thailand is always great, and India has had an uptick.
These trips are kind of long for Americans. People want to spend 10 to 14 days. You lose a day in travel time, even though you gain it back on the other end. I’ve done some of these countries in seven days, but it’s pretty exhausting.
Andrews: We have a 14-day tour called Essence of Japan. It has more departures than any other Tauck journey in Asia for next year. It covers Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and the Japanese Alps. Japan’s rise has been happening for a couple of years now. Immediately after the tsunami, things were just terrible in Japan. But a few years later, we began to see a turnaround in the number of travelers. It’s been increasing steadily, and it’s great to see that.
India is another one. India always has its ups and downs, and 2016 looks like it’s going to be an up period. Our Portrait of India tour is 18 days, and is a grand overview of the north and south. We also have a tour of northern India and Nepal which focuses on India’s national parks.
Louy-Nasty: Right now our most popular trip is Papua New Guinea. It’s a very unique, tribal destination. We do three trips there around festivals, and they’re selling out every year. Those are usually around 15 to 16 days.
If you look at Southeast Asia, our tour Burma: Land of the Golden Pagoda is a real darling. People are so touched and inspired by Burma. It’s really gentle, iconic Asia with beautiful landscapes and temples and a really deep history in Buddhism and culture.
Another favorite is our Sacred Mountain Kingdoms trip. It incorporates Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. You get three very different experiences in the Himalayan region.