After being both a tour guide, managing a Tour Company and spending a year being a traveller myself I reckon I have a pretty good understanding of what makes the difference between a good trip and a great trip to a country.
We all want to see the obvious, Rotorua and the Geysers, Queenstown in all her majesty, the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum but what really makes a visit to a country great are those peeks of how a country actually lives day to day. It’s really important to show country warts and all… the top streets and the tired streets. Don’t always take the main roads, B roads can be a fantastic way to understand how people actually live and often an opportunity to actually meet the locals.
My best memory of Greece was getting a little bit lost and ending up in a little village in the mountains… going to the one little bar/shop/restaurant in the town and spending an afternoon drinking very strong Greek coffee and having very stilted conversations with three old chaps who obviously spent their days, smoking, drinking coffee or whatever! (While their wives were cleaning house and doing the little gardens around their houses) Every time I smell freshly brewed coffee I am back in that village on that hot hot day…. that what great memories and great trips are made of.
You know, New Zealand has so much more to offer than just beautiful scenery, I realise after a year travelling around Europe that we are really very very nice people. On the whole we are friendly and very hospitable and we are pretty proud of our country. There is nothing nicer, if you are on tour, than being taken off the main highway and being set free to walk along a beach and have the time to have a coffee at a cafe that is not a tourist shop. We have lots of places we can share, Narrow Neck Beach, Takapuna Beach, on the way up North a detour to Manly Beach… the opportunities are endless.
Too often we see those coaches pulled up in front of large tourist -aimed shops (excuse used that they have the best toilets!) selling often overpriced items that are made in some offshore country to enable a bit more money to be made out of the traveller via commissions. If you are going to include shopping stops, there are plenty of out of the way authentic shops that can be used, selling good quality NZ made goods that we can be proud to send out of our country.
It won’t cost a tour operator much, if anything, to make these little deviations… maybe an extra half an hour added to the travelling day and a few dollars extra in gas…which will be recouped, I believe, by referral business, the best business you can get.