People are drawn to Vietnam for its friendly people, rich culture and beautiful scenery, but for many, the greatest drawcard is its mouth-watering cuisine: an enticing combination of fresh ingredients that produce flavours that dance on your tongue. When TravelManagers’ Frances Cream joined forces with local Gold Coast chef, private caterer and café proprietor, Angela Barany, to create a small group culinary tour of Vietnam, the pair quickly realised that they had created a recipe for success.
Cream, who is representative for Southport, QLD, joined TravelManagers after several years away from the travel industry, and first met Barany as a client when she was arranging her honeymoon.
“It didn’t take long for us to realise that many of our customers shared the same interests – food and travel – but we certainly weren’t expecting such amazing success with our very first tour,” Cream explains. “We knew we had designed an amazing itinerary for the group, but what really cemented the tour’s success was the genuine enthusiasm and warmth of a group of twelve like-minded women who had managed to take time off from their busy lives to experience something new.”
Barany’s expertise in all things foodie stems from running her own private catering business, the Gold Coast-based Fresh Food Friday, and her passion for food was a key factor in the success of their inaugural tour.
“Angela’s input during the planning stages and her presence in Vietnam ensured that the group were treated to a wonderful week of culinary activities that included a cooking demonstration with local celebrity chef, Chef Duc in Hoi An, and an amazing Vietnamese cooking class at the GRAIN by Luke Nguyen cooking studio in Ho Chi Minh City,” Cream says.
Exotic street food tours, authentic restaurants and local markets also featured on the six-day itinerary, along with other activities such as cycling through rice paddies, a sunset cruise, yoga, massages… “and of course, time to shop”, adds Cream.
TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, says the company is just as thrilled with the success of Cream and Barany’s small-group tour business.
“This is a superb example of how effective the TravelManagers business model can be, encouraging personal travel managers (PTMs) to pursue their individual areas of interest and expertise whilst enjoying the support provided by the National Partnership Office (NPO).”
Cream says along with the marketing, accounting and business support provided by the NPO, having a good relationship with her local ground operator was critical to the success of the tours.
“Working with an expert in the destination, who truly understood the niche we occupied, made a huge difference,” states Cream. “It allowed us to tailor our local tours and options to suit our clients’ needs. For example, we knew it was important for our clients to have time every afternoon for shopping, massages or relaxing by the pool, so we custom-designed some day tours to allow for this.”
Such was the success of this first foodie tour that when Angela and Frances announced the next culinary tour would be to Hong Kong in 2019 under the 'Future Fresh Food Friday Culinary Tours' brand, the Vietnam tour members all immediately signed up.
“Angela and I are thrilled at the feedback we received from our first tour – we couldn’t ask for a better endorsement than one hundred percent repeat business,” Cream says with a smile.
“We’ve also announced a second culinary tour to Vietnam in next year,” she adds, “and it’s nearly sold out already!”
Cream and Barany have so far relied upon word of mouth and the power of social media to organically grow their burgeoning business: an approach that is so far allowing it to simmer along nicely. They host regular morning teas for interested participants, so that they can walk them through the tour to ensure they understand the options and inclusions.
“Vietnam is a destination that almost sells itself,” says Cream. “Like me, our clients on the first tour fell in love with the people and food, and one client booked a holiday for her family to Vietnam in September through me on the day we returned!”
Along with a new tour to Hong Kong in 2019 and exciting new elements planned for next year’s return to Vietnam, the pair are also cooking up future tours to other destinations such as Chiang Mai, Northern India, Taiwan, Tuscany and Sri Lanka. Plans are also underway to design family culinary tours so that children can also get a taste of local experiences and culture.
“We want to retain the customised, boutique feel of our tours to ensure that clients have an amazing, personalised experience,” Cream says. “That’s why we plan to keep our maximum group size at around twelve to fourteen participants.”
Cream says she’s overjoyed with the path she’s followed since re-entering the travel industry and joining TravelManagers, explaining that it allows her to balance her family life with her career.
“It brings together everything I love in life: travelling, running my own business, managing my family, taking more holidays and doing something I’m really passionate about.”
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