John Fitzsimons finds out about the new focus on agent relationships from the 70-year-old walking holiday firm
SUM IT UP FOR US
Ramblers Walking Holidays specialises in organising small-group guided holidays across the world for travellers who like to spend the bulk of their break on their feet.
The firm started life more than 70 years ago as the commercial side of the Ramblers’ Association; selling books, establishing guesthouses for walkers and organising walking trips throughout Europe for members. Today, the firm has set its sights somewhat wider, organising walking holidays in locations as diverse as Botswana, Mexico, Thailand and Morocco.
One factor that makes the firm a little different is that it’s a not-for-profit organisation, with additional proceeds from bookings channelled into the Walking Partnership and the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, which offers financial support to environmental conservation projects across the UK.
In addition, the firm has the Heart & Sole scheme, which offers direct financial aid to communities in many of the destinations holidaymakers visit when they go away with Ramblers Walking Holidays.
WHAT’S THE TARGET MARKET?
Kathy Cook, joint managing director of the firm, says that the key market for Ramblers Walking Holidays falls into two camps — active walkers and the over 50s.
She explains that the operator offers tours across a wide range of abilities, from a leisurely amble around a European city to more testing treks across desert land, covering all sorts of holidaymakers who love the outdoors and
TELL US ABOUT THE SISTER BRANDS
Ramblers Walking Holidays is one of a family of travel operators, each offering a slightly different take on the walking holiday theme.
For example, Adagio, launched in 2012, covers leisurely walking and sightseeing holidays, mostly in Europe. As Cook says: “Our Adagio programme offers more relaxed holidays with emphasis on the destination, its culture, history and sightseeing.” All holidays are divided into three activity levels — leisurely, energetic and adventurous.
HOW DOES IT WORK WITH AGENTS?
Last year, the operator launched its agent project, a dedicated programme of visiting individual travel agent stores and offering bespoke training.
RWH initially partnered with AITO Specialist Travel Agents, with the intention of building a much larger network of trade partners over time.
Paco Gonzalez, sales and reservations manager, who’s been leading the visits, emphasised that agents will enjoy full sales support and excellent commission levels, and noted that while there’s a dedicated online booking portal for agents, to date most of them have opted to speak to RWH first for advice due to the specialist nature of the product on offer.
WHY’S IT IN THE NEWS?
According to Cook, the sort of holiday these travellers are looking for has changed significantly in recent years, with a much greater emphasis now placed on having some form of experience alongside the walking.
This is a big part of the firm’s proposition for 2018, with the launch of its new Encounter — Walk, Sightsee, Safari, Yoga, Trek brochure.
Active itineraries include: mindfulness, yoga and meditation in Majorca; learning to cook an authentic tagine in Morocco; walking with local bushmen in Namibia; and even tackling the North Wales coastal path on a trip that incorporates a RIB boat ride and cycling alongside walking.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Ramblers Walking Holidays has a range of ‘cruise and walk’ holidays, and claims to be the only operator offering this.
Run in conjunction with partners Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, the trips combine the leisure of a cruise with active trips while on shore, though Ramblers Walking Holidays says these bypass the usual cruise ship excursions to offer something a little different.
For example, in June 2018 travellers will be able to enjoy a ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ cruise, which crosses the Arctic Circle and includes a stop off at Pyramiden, a remote outpost on the archipelago of Svalbard, which is just 800 miles from the North Pole.
Cook says that in 2018 agents will be a big priority for the firm.
“We want to build on the agent project and establish ourselves as agents’ first choice for walking and activity holidays worldwide,” she explains. “It’s about giving the trade something different and exciting to offer their clients.”