Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Nov 04, 2019

Insight Vacations taking guided holidays into the 21st century

Insight Vacations’ Carla Brake, Ulla Hefel Böhler and Brad Ford


Europe is hot, so it wasn’t too surprising that Insight Vacations’ CEO Ulla Hefel Böhler was in an upbeat mood when she stopped in Toronto recently to launch the operator’s 2020 Europe & Britain Collection.

“Right now out of Canada, Europe is really the big ticket,” Hefel Böhler told Canadian Travel Press. “Italy is very strong. Spain is very strong. But also all of the Eastern Med destinations [are strong]. Egypt is [finally] back very strongly, as well as Jordan, Israel, Turkey and that’s why we’ve relaunched our Eastern Mediterranean & Ancient Civilizations Collection.”

Asked whether she expects that there will be any big surprises in 2020, Hefel Böhler smiles, before observing the if there is a “big surprise,” it’s probably “something that neither you or I know about yet.”

Noting that Insight’s 2020 Collection of 100 itineraries in Europe & Britain has “never been bigger” and “never been better,” Hefel Böhler said that, while it might not be a surprise per se, the operator’s Country Roads of Wales, Devon and Cornwall itinerary is proving extremely popular.

“You’re probably going to say, oh, a new England itinerary, well, that’s not very innovative, but what we are doing in Wales, Devon and Cornwall – the way the itinerary is crafted, the experiences that you do, the places that you stay at, has really resonated extremely strongly in all of our selling regions,” she said, before adding: “Within a day of launching that itinerary, the bookings started pouring in.”

Talking to Hefel Böhler, one of the questions that does arise is defining Insight’s space in the market.

“I’ll give you a very simple answer. I’ll give you our 30-second brand promise which encapsulates the brand beautifully and that’s: ‘All the sights and the insights, up close and personal, in comfort and style.’ That really sums it up in one sentence and really speaks of our premium positioning because we truly are very firmly positioned consistently in that premium space and [we] are very proud of that,” Hefel Böhler told CTP.

And she added: “If you look at our guest feedback and our repeat rates that proves that we are doing a lot of things right and that we belong in that premium space.”

So what’s the message to agents to help them sell Insight’s product more effectively?

“The one big point to make is our immersive, guided vacations, guided holidays really speak to the broad customer base,” said Hefel Böhler.

She continued: “Yes, Baby Boomers are probably our main target market, but we have a lot of young professionals – in their 30s and 40s – travelling with us. We’ve got extended families travelling with us – it’s not a one-size fits all.”

“I really think the one big message is that we really want and need travel advisors to think of a guided holiday as an amazing travel experience for anyone who looks to really experience a destination – it’s not about how old or how young the customer is,” she told CTP.

And she reinforced that point, observing that Insight wants agents to think of a guided holiday “as an amazing, 21st century travel experience that takes you into the heart of the destination. It’s not about the age bracket, it’s about the mindset of the customer.”

Hefel Böhler also said that: “The other really big point is, and it’s something our team does day in and day out, it’s really about engaging in a one-to-one conversation with the person in front of you. Ask questions, find out what is it exactly [that they want] … if someone says they want to go to Italy, great. But then ask questions and find out what it is they’re after and then you can make a qualified recommendation.”

In this respect, Hefel Böhler said that: “In terms of over-arching trends, immersive experiences absolutely continue to be a trend, and I know we tick that box so beautifully with Insight Vacations.”

And in 2020, Insight is taking things up a notch with the introduction of a concept called Insight Choice which is all about personalizing those immersive experiences.

The point, Insight’s CEO said “is what you want to get out of your holiday is different from what I want to get out of my holiday.”

“We’ve really taken that personalization to the next level where on certain itinerary days, you choose between different included experiences. So if you’re in Vienna, you choose whether you want to go and have coffee and cake in one of the oldest cafes

in the city or whether you want to learn to waltz with a waltz instructor. Or when you’re in Paris, you choose whether you want to go and do a very small group foodie walk and taste your way through Paris or whether you prefer a guided shopping experience in the beautiful Gallery Lafeyette.”

As for why agents should sell Insight Vacations, Hefel Böhler told CTP: “It’s very simple, it is the right offering. For travel advisors selling Insight Vacations is like an annuity because our repeat rate and our satisfaction ratings are so high.”

“And, of course, being in that premium space, the commissions are, you know, they’re based on a premium experience that has a lot more things included than a mass market company, so the commission cheque for the travel advisor, naturally, from the outset, is going to be higher as well.”