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Top special interest tours

Whether they want to refine their brush strokes, take sun salutations or get snap happy on holiday, it pays to take note of your clients’ special interests, says Abra Dunsby

Yoga in Bhutan with andBeyond
Yoga in Bhutan with andBeyond

From singing trips to painting holidays, TTG rounds up top special interest tours to recommend to clients


The diminutive Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan is a lesser-known alternative to India for a yogic retreat. Its quiet beauty “naturally lends itself to introspection and meditation,” says Rishi Sharma, Bhutan project manager for andBeyond, which has added a new small-group yoga retreat and tour there. Guests will take daily two-to-three-hour yoga sessions, trying out a variety of styles from Yin Yang to Vinyasa and Hatha to Nidra. The lessons are often held in spectacular outdoor settings and are led by “healing facilitator” Zoe Nash, who ensures that each participant gets plenty of individualised attention. The tour also explores monastery-dotted Thimphu and Gangtey, the fortress city of Punakha and the architecture of Paro.


Book it: andBeyond’s 10-day Bhutan Yoga Retreat costs from $10,933pp based on two sharing including accommodation, some meals, transfers and flights, with a May 11 departure.

TV drama

The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen... we Brits love the thrill of a Nordic Noir. Danish TV drama Ride Upon the Storm is set to be the next big thing, written by Adam Price of Borgen fame, and airing on Walter Presents – Channel 4’s foreign language drama service – at the end of the month. Clients who can’t get enough of these Scandinavian tales of murder and intrigue can book themselves on to a day tour with Nordic Noir Tours, a Danish DMC that specialises in walks in Copenhagen and Malmo that pay homage to the genre. They’ll get to experience locations used in the TV series, with expert guides on hand to share stories and facts.

Book it: Nordic Noir Tours offers a The Killing/The Bridge in Copenhagen tour, taking place on Saturdays at 4pm, priced from £24pp for a group of six, or £48pp for two people (tour must be pre-booked; private tours can also be arranged).


If your clients like to flex their vocal chords on holiday, a Run by Singers trip might suit. “Most of our regulars are in established choirs and choral societies – we put on serious concerts, often with orchestras and professional soloists,” explains co-founder Nick Couchman. The operator often links the music to the destination visited, with classic pairings including singing Faure in Paris or Vivaldi in Venice, while lesser-known destinations with a strong choral tradition – such as Riga, Tallinn and Evora – are also proving popular. New for 2019 is a Bach pilgrimage tour of Saxony and Thuringia, where clients can discover where the composer lived and worked, with chances to sing at iconic venues.


Book it: Run by Singers’ Bach Pilgrimage starts from £1,395pp based on two sharing, with nine nights’ accommodation and eight group meals included.



A new tour honours BBC series Dynasties’ painted wolves episode by visiting Mana Pools, the same national park that featured in the show. On African Bush Camp’s Meet the Wild Dogs of Zimbabwe safari, clients will follow expert guides, who have developed insight into the wolves’ complex nature and social structure.

The guides will also highlight the wolves’ fight for survival; 100 years ago there were 500,000 living across Africa, but today just 6,600 remain. Guests will track the painted wolves – also known as wild dogs – on foot, along the shoreline of the Zambezi river. They’ll stay in the safari specialist’s new luxury riverside camp, Nyamatusi, set in the heart of David Attenborough’s wild dog territory.

Book it: African Bush Camps’ 10-night Meet the Wild Dogs of Zimbabwe safari is available from April-November and costs from £4,435pp based on two sharing, with the safari starting in Livingstone, Zambia, and ending in Harare, Zimbabwe. Price excludes flights.



Japan is a fascinating mix of age-old culture and cutting-edge modernity that makes it wonderfully photogenic. “For photographers, whatever their specialism or field of interest – be it wildlife, portraits or landscapes – Japan can offer up something to capture their imagination,” says Alastair Donnelly, director of InsideJapan Tours. The operator is launching a specialist photography tour to Japan, accompanied by esteemed photojournalist Everett Kennedy Brown – who has lived and worked in Japan for more than 25 years – and kimono model Junko Okimoto.


The tour includes behind-the- scenes access to individuals including geishas, monks and local craftspeople. While the tour is a one-off departure, the operator is able to create bespoke tours for groups of photographers throughout the year to various destinations.

Book it: The 11-night Portraits of Japan tour is priced from £6,000pp, departing October 21, including accommodation and tutorials but excluding flights.



Crete’s clear waters, crumbling ruins and bougainvillea-draped houses are pretty as a picture and, on a new walking holiday, clients can paint their version of the landscape. Sunvil’s Active Crete Walking and Painting Holiday offers days spent exploring the island’s mountains, countryside and buildings on locally guided walks, with time to visit museums and villages. At dusk, painting workshops are hosted before free time to enjoy the local tavernas. The operator’s Greece expert, Dudley Der Parthog, says the trip offers an authentic experience with “homely accommodation” and experienced, knowledgeable local guides. “The trip includes activities as well as offering free time for relaxing, swimming and independent exploration,” he adds.


Book it: Sunvil’s Active Crete Walking and Painting Holiday costs from £1,293pp based on two sharing, including flights, transfers, seven nights’ B&B accommodation, five morning walks, four painting workshops and a painting exhibition and party on the last night. Based on May 21 and September 17 departures.



New for this year, Ffestiniog Travel has added Connoisseur Tours to its escorted programme, designed to appeal to those with a specific passion for railways. Maria Cook, the operator’s general manager, says its role as a specialist allows clients access to unique experiences: “We’ve been producing private, in-depth tours for rail enthusiast groups for many years and are perfectly positioned to make special arrangements that aren’t always available to the general public, such as behind-the-scenes access at heritage railways and driving experiences on railways and trams.”


The operator’s Golden Triangle & Ranthambore trip incorporates journeys on the Kangra Valley railway and ever-popular Kalka Shimla railway, weaving in tiger spotting at Ranthambore national park and a stay in the pink city of Jaipur.


Book it: The 19-day Golden Triangle & Ranthambore trip starts from £4,795pp including flights, accommodation, some meals and all rail journeys, departing October 29.



If Bram Stoker’s gothic masterpiece Dracula is your clients’ ideal holiday read, recommend they immerse themselves in the novel’s surroundings on a trip to Transylvania, home of medieval prince Vlad the Impaler aka Vlad Dracul, believed to have inspired the fictional character of Dracula. On Cosmos’s new Treasures of the Balkans and Transylvania tour, clients will visit the birthplace of bloodthirsty count Dracula in Sighisoara to see the novel’s journal entries, letters, ship logs and doctor’s notes come to life.


Clients will also visit Bran Castle, dubbed Dracula’s Castle because it so closely fits Stoker’s description in the book. Perched on a precipice and surrounded by forest, the castle was built in 1377 and is located near the pretty Old Town of Brasov.

Book it: Prices for the 13-day tour start from £1,635pp, including flights, private home pick-up service (within 50 miles), transfers, accommodation, some meals and porterage. Based on October 1 departure.



May 2 marks 500 years since the death of legendary Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci, whose ideas impacted countless areas of thought during the Renaissance including architecture, invention, painting, sculpting and science. To celebrate all things artistic, Insight Vacations has launched An Art Lover’s Taste of Europe, which will spend 15 days travelling across Europe, visiting the region’s most famous art galleries, including the Vatican Museums and Galleria Borghese in Rome, Florence’s iconic Uffizi Gallery, Museo Leonardiano in Vinci (the birthplace of Da Vinci) alongside other iconic galleries and museums from Milan to Amsterdam via Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre.


Book it: Prices for the trip start from £3,900pp with a one-off departure on October 6.

How to sell special interest tours

Patrick Millar, marketing manager at Kirker Holidays, says: “Identifying your clients’ interests is an essential tool to help you sell them more, and better suited, holidays. By tapping into a subject that they are already passionate about, you immediately make your sales job easier, and you also stand a great chance of acquiring some new clients along the way.

“The most important thing to remember is you don’t have to be an expert in Renaissance art to be able to sell a great art holiday, for example – it’s easy to be intimidated by specialist subject matter, but don’t blu it, just keep your focus on the logistics and let the itinerary sell itself.


“If you need support, why not ask the operator – or even the tour expert – to speak directly to the client to reassure them or answer any particularly sticky queries?”

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