Back-Roads Touring announced their launch into Asia yesterday. But as Traveltalk’s JON UNDERWOOD discovered in this exclusive interview with Dennis Basham, Country Manager Australia & New Zealand, this could be just the beginning.
Q: This is an historic moment for Back-Roads Touring.
A: After 28 years operating in the UK and Europe we have launched our Asia product. We’ve stuck with the three most popular Asian destinations – Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – and we’ve got eight different tours to those destinations ranging from five to 12 days.
Q: What’s included in your new Asia brochure?
A: You’ll find that we’ve really stuck to our DNA so we do start in the main capital cities but as the name suggests we then head out to the back roads. So we’ll show you parts of Asia that are not on the traditional tourist map.
A huge part of our business is the vehicle type so our Asia tours will consist of a maximum of 14 guests, which is even smaller numbers than our UK and Europe tours. We don’t use any branded hotels so our guests will be staying in small, family-run, centrally-located boutique accommodation where we may be the only guests in house.
The itineraries are leisurely paced so we don’t really start our tours before nine, allowing a sleep in. And we generally spend two nights anywhere so guests can relax and enjoy the hotel facilities. A big part of our touring is also the culinary experiences so more than 50 per cent of meals are included, which then allows our guests to go and experience something local or as recommended by our tour guides.
Q: Is there anything that’s not included on your tours?
A: Again in keeping with our DNA we like our product to be as all-inclusive as possible, so everything from our porterage through to gratuities, entry fees, accommodation, tour leader, tour guide, is all included. The only extra things you’ll have to pay for are souvenirs and the odd lunch and dinner. But you definitely won’t go hungry on a Back-Roads tour!
Q: Another big part of the Back-Roads experience is getting to meet the locals?
A: Definitely. You’ll notice in the itineraries that we’re very connected with the locals and spend a lot of time mingling with the locals. There’s a lot of cooking classes and visits to local homes.
Q: What was it about Asia that attracted you to start up here?
A: We thought it would be a great stopover where people could sample our Asian product and then travel on to the UK and Europe and do one of our tours over there. It’s also because Australians love Asia. From our studies these three countries that we are launching are the most popular, but we’ve also been doing research on Myanmar, Borneo, Indonesia and even China and Japan to add in coming years.
Q: So this might just be the beginning of your expansion plans?
A: I’m pretty sure we’ll add three or four other destinations in Asia next year. We have a great five year plan, now that we know what works well and what our clients are doing. So it’s UK, Europe and Asia now, but we are looking at North America and Canada in coming years as well.
In the last five or six years business has more than tripled and there’s been a real move towards small group touring and we’ve seen the benefit of that.
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