A theme come true

A theme come true

From yoga at Wadi Rum to flowers in Holland and Elvis in Memphis, there’s a themed escorted tour foreveryone, reports Joanna Booth

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Knowledge is power. The 16th-century philosopher Sir Francis Bacon might not have been thinking about escorted tours when he coined this phrase, but it still rings true. The more you know about your clients, the better chance you have of closing a sale.

This is particularly valid when it comes to their passions. An interest can translate into a holiday, and as escorted tour operators have wised up to this notion they’ve introduced themed tours across a range of subjects. So next time you’re filling the silence while a website loads, or while you wait for an operator to pick up the phone, have a chat with your client and find out what they like doing.

If they love pottering in the garden, suggest a tour to Floriade, the world’s largest horticultural show. Perhaps they’d like to improve their holiday snaps. Did they know Insight Vacations offers photography-themed European tours with a professional photographer? Into yoga? Bingo! On the Go Tours offers a tour of Jordan with morning and evening yoga classes. And talking of bingo, over-55s specialist Grand UK offers short breaks with themes including bingo and cards.


There are tuneful trips to suit most musical tastes. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis’s death, and Collette Worldwide’s America’s Music Cities tour stops at Graceland, where there’ll be three new exhibits this summer. The nine-day tour also visits Nashville and New Orleans. Cosmos Tours & Cruises has a nine-day Elvis & The Southern Sounds tour with special departures for the 35th anniversary on August 12, Christmas at Graceland, and on January 5 for Elvis’s birthday on the 8th.

Shearings Holidays’ Liverpool and the Fab Four tour is new for this year. The four-night Beatles-themed tour has an expert guide and includes a visit to the Beatles Story.

For those with more elevated ears, Kirker offers classical music tours, including a trip to Milan to hear opera at La Scala and to Finland for a Sibelius Festival, with three concerts and a programme of excursions following the composer’s life.


With Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs fuelling our appetites for the past, Shearings has added UK heritage itineraries this year. There’s a 15-day British Heritage Trail, visiting sights such as Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall, and a seven-day Irish Heritage Trail, which includes Irish evening entertainment, Guinness pouring and traditional brown bread-making demonstrations, as well as sightseeing.

Grand UK offers a five-day Battle of Britain break in Lincolnshire, and a more light-hearted four-day Back to the Good Old Days nostalgia tour with variety show performances.

Farther afield, Cosmos Tours & Cruises has special departures in May and June of its National Parks and Canyon Country itinerary for American Civil War enthusiasts. The 16-day trip will visit Little Bighorn, Montana, on the correct date to commemorate the 1876 battle where Custer made his last stand.

Abercrombie & Kent launched a range of cultural and historical trips this year with expert leaders. In September, Michael Williams, the first non-Japanese person to hold Samurai rank since William Adams in 1600, will lead In the Footsteps of the Geisha and Samurai around Japan. With seven black belts in martial arts and fluency in the language, Michael will bring the tour alive.


For behind the scenes access to the world of art, check out Cox & Kings’ tours, run in conjunction with the Royal Academy. Expert-led tours often offer access to artworks usually unseen by the public and have occasional evening lectures as well as informal discussions with the experts. New tours in this year’s range include trips to Florence, Venice and New York, where there are private tours of museums to avoid the crowds.

Kirker also offers art breaks visiting high-profile exhibitions around Europe. Highlights this year include Gustav Klimt in Vienna and Albrecht Durer in Nuremberg.

For those who like to create rather than observe, suggest one of Insight Vacations’ two photography tours running in August. A 12-day Snapshot of Europe itinerary visits Amsterdam, Rhineland, Innsbruck, Venice, Lucerne, Paris and London, or there is a 10-day Rome to London in Focus tour. Both are accompanied by a professional photographer to help with tips and tutorials, but also have the usual Insight tour director to guide clients around the iconic tourist sights.


Floriade, the world’s largest horticultural expo, is held only once every decade so it’s little wonder there’s a big noise around it. Make sure your clients don’t miss out on this year’s six-month-long event. Both Shearings and Great Rail Journeys offer options to twin visits to the Netherlands show with a visit to Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden.

Titan Travel offers an eight-day Floriade: Theatre of Nature cruise on Royal Crown, incorporating a visit to the expo alongside other sights on the Rhine. Other green-fingered tours include Page & Moy’s eight-day Springtime in Crete, led by a gardening expert, and Travelsphere’s five-day trip to Monet’s Garden of Giverny, which includes optional visits to Honfleur and Dieppe.

Theme Tours 2


If clients were excited about the new pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, how about suggesting a long weekend trip to see them in the wild? Wendy Wu Tours’ Panda Weekend will whisk them off to Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, to get up close with the black and white bears. The trip lasts four days and starts from £995.

These aren’t the only endangered species to warrant tours. This year Journeys of Distinction added a Borneo option to its good-value ‘Light’ collection of tours, which visits the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary. TransIndus’s 17-day Call of the Wild gives clients every opportunity to spot tigers at a collection of India’s premier national parks, including Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench.


Whether clients are spectators or want to get active themselves, there are plenty of options to suit.

Sports fans will be excited to hear that Lions Rugby Travel has released packages for the 2013 Lions tour to Hong Kong and Australia, with options including escorted tours that are commissionable to agents.

Both Titan Travel and APT offer Calgary Stampede packages for those who want to enjoy the world-famous rodeo.

On the Go Tours has a Yoga Holiday in Jordan tour, departing June 10. It allows clients to combine traditional sightseeing with training from a yoga expert, with morning and evening sessions, often in stunning locations such as the shores of the Dead Sea or under the stars at Wadi Rum.

Explore has responded to client demand for more active tours with an expansion of its cycling and trekking options. New walking trips include Iceland and Corsica, and two-wheeled choices have spread farther afield, with trips to Burma, India, Costa Rica and Panama.

Australia is the land of surfers, and Contiki, One Stop Touring Shop’s brand for 18-35s, can help those who head out there to catch a few waves without ending up flat on their faces. A five-day City to Surf itinerary goes from Sydney to Surfers Paradise and includes a special stay at Surf Camp staying at cabins on the beach, including surf lessons.

At the other end of the age range, Grand UK has a four-day Strictly Come Ballroom Dancing break based in Skegness with excursions to Boston and the Lincolnshire Wolds.


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