Tuesday,  January 21, 2020  4:29 pm

Seeing South America up close with explora


Seeing South America up close with explora
Images courtesy of explora
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

With another New Year already here, many agents are already thinking of ways to make their 2020 sales even better than last year’s, with new products and destinations to offer their clients.

Taking inspiration from the Old World ‘overland’ trips of decades past, explora could be one such option.

Offering experiences and destinations that, for many travellers, are brand-new, the company hosts a series of luxury all-inclusive explorations across South America’s most remote and unique regions, from the quiet contemplation of the Atacama Desert and Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats to the rugged wilderness of Patagonia and the mystique of Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

Dallyce Macas, owner of Eminence – a small, boutique travel marketing and sales company which represents explora in Canada – told PAX that interest in the product has surged amongst Canadian travellers seeking something new, while offering agents an attractive commission structure of 10 per cent across the entire trip.

“We’ve more than tripled the volume out of Canada since 2015,” Macas said, adding that Quebec has been “a key market,” with the explora site also available in French.

“(explora is) well-suited to the Canadian industry because buyers love an all-inclusive product. Everything is included from transfers to meals and activities; that means that the trade – tour operators and retail – are being commissioned on the full experience. They’re being paid commission on everything the client does – from eating, sleeping and breathing.”

Bolivia's Uyuni Salt Flats are one of the unique landscapes featured in explora's itineraries (images courtesy of explora)

The explora experience

Travellers can choose from dozens of potential itineraries across the seven regions in which explora operates; with local hotels acting as home base for the adventure, travellers will have ample opportunity to explore the local culture and landscapes in great detail.

For travellers wishing to see even more of South America on an exclusive tour, explora’s Travesia collection allows very small groups of travellers (for instance, departures on the new Uyuni-Atacama Traveisa program are limited to groups of two) to head into the wilderness in satellite-connected vehicles with an expert guide and driver.

While explora’s itineraries can be holidays on their own, Macas pointed out that the program can also act as a link in a larger voyage. Citing the surging popularity of Antarctic cruises, she said that many travellers will go to Ushuaia on an Antarctica trip then head to Easter Island afterwards via explora.

“Explora then becomes a piece of a larger itinerary they (agents) can mark up,” Macas said.

Who does explora appeal to?

While exploring the South American wilderness may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, the flexibility of an explora itinerary makes it well-suited to travellers of all interests and ages, Macas said.

Describing the potential explora client as “well-travelled, looking for something one step beyond the typical all-inclusive and more active or culturally curious,” Macas said that it’s fairly common to see multi-gen groups and couples, citing the wide range of experiences on offer; in addition to outdoor explorations, travellers can also shop in local markets or relax in a pool or at the spa.

“That’s why it works so well,” she said. “The grandparents might want to take it easy and enjoy culture, but there’s also younger people who might want to mountain-climb or go hiking.”

Guests of explora's itineraries enjoy plenty of comfort alongside explorationHow to sell explora

With explora offering a “fairly steep” education curve for agents looking to sell the product, Macas said that first-hand experience with the product is key. As a result, she explained that the company (part of the Virtuoso network) has invested in the Canadian trade with agent FAMs, the most recent of which saw Macas take a group of Vision Travel agents to Peru’s Sacred Valley.

“They didn’t know this existed,” she said of the Vision agents. “They feel incredibly confident in going back and proposing this to their clients. In most cases, when agents are with us, you can see the client list going through their minds. It gives them confidence to approach the client rather than the client coming to them.

Seeing is selling,” she added. “We’re a little off the beaten path; based exclusively in South America, many of these destinations are those that the travel trade is not used to selling.”

Considering the scope and length of an explora journey, patience is also key in making the sale.

“The client isn’t going to walk in and say they want to go to Patagonia,” Macas said. “Gain a little courage and email them to tell them about product they might be interested in over the next two or three years. Agents who I began working with four years ago are just now closing the sale."

And while explora may be a niche product, Macas explained that when agents find the right client, they’re likely to travel again, with 70 per cent of clients repeating a trip; to that end, explora offers a loyalty program with a 10 per cent discount for travellers when they make a repeat booking at another lodge.

“You’re not selling once – you’re getting a client for life,” she said.


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