“It can sometimes feel like people – clients, the media, the industry – are obsessed with finding the ‘next big thing’, or undiscovered destinations in travel, which puts immense pressure on all concerned,” said George Morgan-Grenville, founder and chief executive of Red Savannah.
“As a tour operator, we think what’s more exciting right now is what’s happening in places we already know.”
Red Savannah added 20 new journeys in Europe and 90 hotels for this year, with Morgan-Grenville particularly highlighting Sicily, Puglia, Romania and Norway as destinations that Red Savannah now features more journeys in.
“We’re taking the attitude that it’s about rediscovering familiar and really great places on your doorstep, but perhaps with a new approach – such as our food tour of the Basque region and up into France,” he said.
The Basque Country to Bordeaux “culinary road trip” features elements such as Pintxos tours and Michelin starred restaurants in San Sebastian, up to Cap-Ferret, vineyard visits around Bordeaux and staying in the new Domaine des Etangs chateau-hotel, then onto Paris on the TGV.
Morgan-Grenville also flagged Italy as a place Red Savannah was focusing on.
"There are so many more ways to discover places such as Sicily and Puglia,” he said.
New itineraries include Italy – Tale of Three Cities; A Journey though Basilicata & Puglia; Unesco Wonders of Ancient Sicily; and Venice, Dolomites and Milan.
He also highlighted a range of itineraries in Norway, set to be another popular summer choice, and Romania “for people really looking for remote places and tradition”, with three tour options there.
The operator will also put a renewed emphasis on its villa programme worldwide and on gulet sailing in the Aegean, with the addition of sailing craft such as Hayal 62, Dolce Mare and Derin Deniz in Turkey and Croatia for the season; “the quality has really improved”, Morgan Grenville said.
Villas and private estates also represent a hugely popular area for the operator, with new properties added in Italy, France, Spain and Greece.
“Villa bookings can be fraught with issues, but we have a handpicked, personally checked selection of the best – and we are also offering a price-match guarantee. Every villa also comes with help and advice from our local on-the-ground experts,” he said.
There is still plenty of mid-long haul travel in the operator’s programme as well though, including two new journeys in Japan and three in Namibia, which Morgan-Grenville said was “humming” with popularity and new product.
He also flagged Lebanon as a “hot contender” and promised a focus on Egypt and Jordan soon, as well as introducing the remote Indonesian destination of Tana Toraja in Sulawesi, home to the Toraja ethnic group known for their unique funeral culture.
“This is what we call ‘proper travel’ if you like; so much of travel was being subsumed by the hotel as the focus – which one to stay at, the buzz around new ones – but this is what people want, to really travel,” said Morgan-Grenville.
By-the-cabin options for adventures by boat in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat are also new for Red Savannah from this November.
“Usually this level of sailing can be price prohibitive to some, but this is a great, more accessible way to approach it,” he added.
Speaking of booking patterns and the impact this year of Brexit debacle on traveller confidence, he said: “You’re coping with both short and very long lead times at the same time; this is the most bizarre time I can remember in my travel career. You literally never know day to day what the market is going to do.
“Luckily for us, the nature of luxury travel is that clients tend to think more independently than the mass market and are much more persuaded by their own personal drivers such as what’s happening in their businesses.”
More of the UK’s affluent population are also looking to take a family sabbatical, with some trips lasting months and costing anywhere up to £1 million, Morgan-Grenville said.
He added the trend was based around people who had perhaps sold their business or property, and were using some of the proceeds to plan these life-break trips around the world with family.
“We’ve become very good at this in a quite pioneering way I think; you need to have people fully dedicated to planning – we have had to really think about how the team works together on the trips,” Morgan-Grenville explained.
“And they can’t be approached as you would, say a gap year for younger travellers – as these are families travelling, so it’s about suggesting several bases they can travel from, rather than moving onto new hotels and destinations every two nights.”
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