Avanti Marks a Successful First Year for Groups Department

It has been exactly a year since Portland, Oregon-based Avanti Destinations began accepting booking through its Custom Groups Department and, according to Paul Barry, CEO, the initiative has been a great success. He says that 100 groups were booked for 2019 with that number expected to double in 2020.

The Custom Groups department, which has a separate staff and office in Bothell, Washington, creates customized arrangements for groups of 15 to 100 passengers traveling to one or more destinations that Avanti sells in Europe, Asia, or Central and South America.

Until a year ago, Avanti, which sells only through travel agents, handled custom small groups under 16 passengers—primarily family and friends traveling together. The new department constructs customs itineraries for almost any type of group that travel agents book: sports teams, school/alumni groups, volunteer groups, groups wanting to see special events, performances, or specific types of sights, such as gardens, vineyards, architecture, religious sites, or other specialized interests of the group.

At the time of the creation of the new department, Barry said, “Because every group has their own idea of what they want to do and where they want to go, I see our Custom Groups department as an extension of our brand of independent travel, where no two Avanti vacations are the same.” He said Avanti’s staff has tremendous in-depth destination knowledge and has handled hundreds of small, 10-16 passenger groups over the years. With their ability to seamlessly connect multiple destinations, he said, the company has simply extended the scope of its services.

Barry said the appeal of the group product was the same as the traditional Avanti program—customized experiences, often exclusive to Avanti. For instance, there is a family vineyard in Italy that only welcomes Avanti clients. The company also works with destination management companies to find truly local guides.

In the last year, Avanti’s groups division has put together a wide range of programs, including a quilting tour of Ireland and a rugby tour for the World Cup in Japan.

Aside from the groups, Avanti continues to innovate in and expand in multiple areas. Last year alone, said Barry, there were 2500 small enhancements to programs.

Among the recent additions are programs to Morocco, Mongolia and St. Petersburg, Russia; and 13 new suggested itineraries, 46 new hotels and 17 new activities and tours to its Central and South American product lineup for 2020 and 2021.

And there is more to come. Avanti will launch itineraries, hotels, tours and transfers in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in the third quarter of 2020. Barry said the destination was the number one request in the last five years. Over the next year, Avanti will be educating its staff and in turn agents on the new products.

“We are the travel agent’s travel agent,” said Barry. “We do a huge amount of education of agents and that means educating our own people first. Avanti is always happy to put our counselors on the phone with agents and their clients.”

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