For those who don’t know, tell us about Blue-Roads. Are you new?
On the contrary, Blue-Roads has been around for 29 years, but we were called Back-Roads in the beginning. This year we went through a rebranding following the publication of a book by William Heat-Moon about travelling the small back-roads and byways of North America 40 years ago and bypassing major roads and highways: the routes marked in blue on the atlas. It was an epic 13,000 mile journey through small towns so the idea of blue roads resonated strongly for re-branding the company. For more information visit: www.blueroadstouring.com.
Who is your target market?
Most of our travellers are 40+ with the majority of them falling in the 55-65 age range. Our travellers don’t want the ‘big bus experience’; they are after something more intimate, authentic and relaxed, travelling with a small group of (soon-to-be) friends instead of herded around from picture stop to picture stop.
What are some of your most popular destinations?
England, Ireland and Italy are the three most popular selling destinations that we travel to with the ‘Corners of Cornwall’ being our most popular trip selling from North America. Having grown up in England, and being born in Cornwall myself, this trip is very close to my heart – we even visit my home town of Padstow. Having the opportunity to have lunch at celebrity chef, Rick Stein’s famous Seafood Restaurant (and this is an ‘included’ meal) is not to be missed. Along with Spain and France. Croatia is becoming more and more popular.
What is unique about your tours?
It’s all in our name – we get off the main highways and really delve into, for example, the Heart of England (the name of the FAM we just did in November, more on that later). We include a lot more meals then most companies and we provide unique local experiences you can’t find anywhere else, like flying in a fully restored WW2 Dragon Rapide airplane over the English countryside. For an experience more down to earth, you can try your hand at truffle-hunting in the French or Italian countryside, an activity perfectly tailored to our small group setting. There is a huge emphasis on all things culinary in our trips, from partaking in a traditional fondue in Switzerland or learning how to make pasta or perogies in Italy or Poland.
What is the maximum size of your tours?
Our maximum tour size in Europe is 18 and in Asia it’s 14. The limit for our barge/canal trips in France is 20 guests. Our average group size in Europe is typically 12-15 and in Asia it’s typically 6-10. So a small group really allows you to get off the beaten path and let you try things you couldn’t do with a bigger group.
Tell us a little about the typical accommodations?
Well, our standard varies but we have a mix of 3.5 to 5 star accommodations across our destinations. We don’t stay in chain hotels and we have hand selected properties that blend in nicely with the destination we are travelling to. For example in Morocco we use a mix of boutique hotels and traditional riads (old stately homes that have been converted into hotels). In Italy or Spain we use a mix of converted monasteries, villas and some amazing heritage properties. In France we house our clients in chateau’s, while in Scotland and Ireland we inhabit the odd castle or two. The properties are hand-picked for their charm and location and these really are a major highlight of the trip.
What underrated destination do you think will be on the radar soon?
Malta. We have an amazing trip to Malta and if this is not on your travel radar yet, it will be soon! Travel through picturesque cities untouched by time and not overrun with tourists and take part in both wine and cheese tours. Many people might be surprised to learn that the movie Troy, featuring Brad Pitt and Eric Bana, was mostly filmed in Malta. So when you step out of the plane and into Malta you really are stepping back in time. www.blueroadstouring.com/tours/europe/malta-highlights
What sets Blue-Roads apart from the competition?
First of all we are experts in arranging great travel experiences for small groups which means we are able to be flexible with our itineraries and more authentic, intimate and relaxed than big tours. We are able to offer unique experiences and accommodations that are simply not possible when large numbers of visitors need to be moved around. To repeat, our maximum group size in Europe is 18 (with an average around 12) and in Asia it’s even smaller with a max size of 14 (with an average around 8).
Do you work with new agencies?
Of course we do. We are happy to pay competitive commission to agencies and we have representation out West – contact me, Miles Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org and out East through Vicki Ioannou Theophilou at email@example.com.
Do you take solo travellers?
Of course. About 30% of our trips are singles. It’s much less intimidating travelling as a single in a small group then on a large tour and with the customized Mercedes Benz coach we use in Europe it’s a much more intimate experience. It doesn’t take long to get along and belong: after just the first meal (at possibly at one of the Michelin star restaurants we frequent) everyone, including single and solo travellers, has melded together into a group of adventuring travellers. The single supplement prices are very reasonable as well, typically only 10-25% higher for having their own room.
Do you do webinars?
Yes we are happy to do webinars with agencies of course!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been in the industry?
This is my 10th year in the travel industry. I was previously with On The Go Tours before joining the Canadian team here with Blue-Roads. We also offer a youth product, Topdeck Travel, which focuses on travel for the 18-39 market. Perfect for those millennial clients you might have. www.topdeck.travel
Do you run FAM trips?
Yes we do. We just ran a FAM to England in November, our Heart of England Tour (www.blueroadstouring.com/tours/europe/heart-of-england) for agents from all over Canada and we are looking at some FAM options right now for the fall. Please get in touch if you are interested. I’ll leave you with some photos of the previous FAM, which follows the tracks of Neolithic man, Roman forces, celebrated writers and contemporary filmmakers who have all made a mark on England’s heartland. This tour covers Wiltshire’s ancient stone circles and movie-set good looks, Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ and Bath’s incredible architecture.