Expert for individual travel: Matthias Ruch from the specialist It's Your Trip (here in Guatemala) offers trips that are tailor-made for each and every customer.
You know the big players like TUI or FTI, but have you heard of Safari Guru or Chamäleon? Alongside the volume tour operators, Germany's travel industry boasts many small and medium-sized specialists. The initiative One Voice shows their diversity and bundles their interests.
Matthias Ruch wanted to provide travellers something unique, something the big tour operators could not offer. As the CEO of It's Your Trip, a small special tour operator that focuses on highly individual experience travels, he came up with this concept: Based on the customer's wishes, each trip is planned tailor-made by his partners in the destinations. "Our clients are looking for authentic experiences, they want to meet with the locals and not visit a staged folklore event", Ruch says.
Special tour operators : Small but mighty
Exotic destinations, unusual encounters or a focus on sustainability – the demand is there for individual and exceptional trips. Before the Coronavirus hit, small and mid-sized special tour operators recorded stronger percentage growth than the big players. "Classic tour operators are increasingly offering to combine trips from individual packages", Ruch says. "But these are fake individual trips."
Individual, versatile, extraordinary
Alongside the well-known volume tour operators, It's Your Trip is one of many mid-sized and small specialists in the German travel industry. Their businesses are no less of utmost importance for the destinations.
Chamäleon is known for sustainable long-distance travel in small groups. Supporting the people in the destination is part of CEO Ingo Lies' business philosophy.
Among the specialists, there are relative heavyweights, but also smaller enterprises. Experience and adventure expert Chamäleon for example employs over 100 people and is a diversified company with 70 destinations and different types of travels in their portfolio. In contrast, East Africa specialist Africa Safari Experts has a staff of eight people and operates in Tanzania, Uganda und Ruanda.
Companies such as Troll Tours (Scandinavia), Aventoura (Latin America) or Safari Guru (Africa) also concentrate on regions. Misir, which offers travels to Croatia since 1969, Cuba Buddy and Canada Dream Tours are country experts. Manuela Wagner of Canada Dream Tours says: "As a specialist tour operator, we can best pass on the passion and love for the destination to our customers."
Adventure Trans-Siberian Railway: Felix Willeke, Managing Director of Lernidee Erlebnisreisen, on a walk on the frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia.
Other providers are experts for certain products.
Lernidee's trademark for example is train travel, their bestseller is the Trans-Siberian Railway. Intercontact's only target groups are special groups, whether choirs, fire brigades or swimming clubs. Hiking specialist Highländer is known for tours in small groups in Europe. Feuer und Eis is renowned for its comfortable Alpine crossings.
„We are very flexible in working out the itinerary. No program is identical.“
Some companies are very specialized. MAX macht Mut organizes group trips for people who have suffered from the loss of a loved one. Rainbow Garden Village offers a combination of volunteering and tourism.
What they all have in common is that their products are anything but standard. And unlike the big players, they always cater to the individual need of the customer. "We are very flexible in working out the itinerary. No program is identical," says Georg Albrecht, CEO of Karawane Reisen.
One Voice: an alliance of specialist tour operators
An initiative that wants to show how many great special tour operators there are in Germany is One Voice. As an alliance, it aims to bundle the interests of these small and medium-sized tour operators and highlight their uniqueness and diversity in the product range.
As a small organizer, Annette Sirikwa of East Africa specialist Africa Safari Experts hopes that One Voice will give her more visibility in the market.
Particularly, the 'little ones' hope to gain more visibility and status through One Voice, especially with the travel agencies. "Usually, guests find us directly, but we are still completely unknown to travel agents - even though we have been on the market for 14 years", says Annette Sirikwa, CEO of Africa Safari Experts. She thinks travel agencies could win new customers and stand out from the competition by selling the specialists' unique products.
„Usually, guests find us directly, but we are still completely unknown to travel agents.“
The timing for One Voice to gain momentum is favourable. Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, there had been a lot of friction between classic tour operators and sales. Travel agencies felt abandoned by the big players in the waves of cancellations and demanded compensation for the extra work, as well as commissions based on the amount of work involved.
A new alliance of specialist tour operators: The initiators of One Voice at their kick-off in Frankfurt. Christiane Blaeser is second from left.
That is why One Voice made a splash with the so-called Fair Deal. The manifesto was published as a basis for a new cooperation between special tour operators and sales and provides joint solutions for all the lingering conflicts.
So far, more than 60 companies have registered with One Voice. "The small tour operators even offered to be actively involved during the consultation and booking process at the travel agency," says Christiane Blaeser who came up with the idea of the industry initiative. "The big tour operators can't offer that."