Imitation may be the highest form of flattery. But when it comes to travel look-alikes, beware.
For example, the concept of the self-guided cycling vacation introduced in 1994 by bike tour pioneer Loren Siekman of Pure Adventures was created in response to North America’s growing demand for independent yet professionally supported active travel.
Since then, the marketplace has been crowded with competitors, many of whom offer packages that are deficient in one way or another. While, according to Siekman, competition creates awareness, all offers are not created equal, underscores the founder and owner of Pure Adventures.
“The result for the consumer can be disappointing, at a minimum,” says Siekman, “We started in the 1990s with a Euro model tour and adapted it for the North American traveler. We added more support like arrival orientations, raised the quality of hotels, built easy-to-understand navigation tools, included local experiences and significantly raised the quality of equipment. We tell customers that our self-guided tours are just like a guided trip in terms of quality and services but without the hassle of fixed travel dates, minimum group participation or strange trip mates to put up with. Our clients are always connected to us remotely, even though there’s no guide and sag vehicle on the horizon.”
Pure Adventures’ original version of self-guided is about half the cost of a guided trip, averaging $1,400 per person for a seven-night trip. A typical guided European cycling trip starts at $2,800.
But it’s buyer beware when looking at the preponderance of self-guided programs out there, advises Siekman.
“For example, in Europe, many local outfitters like to set fixed departure dates to maximize group numbers and lower their costs for luggage handling. Sometimes luggage transfers aren’t even included in trip prices. Navigation tools also vary from company to company from non-existent to high tech,” adds Siekman.
Questions that he suggests should be asked include; “How thoroughly researched are opportunities for cultural experiences? What is the quality of lodging and what meals are included? How new are the bikes and equipment and what are the qualifications of the people maintaining them?”
Pure Adventures recommends that consumers create their own matrix of inclusions and then do a comparison study. To consider are:
- Freedom to choose travel dates and customize the itinerary to their needs
- Local support – what is it, who is it, and what can be expected? Meet and greet, telephone support throughout the trip, transportation if needed, arrival and departure transfers, any back stop for bad weather, sickness, or other unforeseen circumstances like mechanical breakdowns?
- Rental equipment and navigation tools – what is included, or how much extra is it and what support is provided? What technology is available and how tech savvy must the user be to easily utilize it?
- Lodging – an important area of scrutiny; be sure to look at ratings and seasonality, room category, group discounts, meals on site and what level menu, three course or five course?
- Responsive – in the off season it’s easy to get email responses or phone calls, but what about when it is high season? Is there a dedicated agent assigned and available to accommodate your needs and time restraints?
- Language, insurance, licenses, recourse, payment conditions, and so on.
“Our self-guided biking and hiking tours are truly the best value, situated between a fully supported and date-limited guided trip and a do-it-yourself option. On our trips, you travel on your own terms with all the help and support needed letting you focus on what matters most – enjoying your vacation,” Siekman goes on to explain. “Our company never cancels on its clients and can put trips together at the 11th hour in most of our destinations.”
Self-Guided Cycling Tours in North America include California, Colorado, and Arizona and just new in 2016 is Quebec. Pure Adventures also offers self-guided programs in 16 different countries throughout Europe.
A must-read for anyone considering a self-guided bike tour is The Beginner’s Guide to Self-guided Cycling Adventure Holidays, a new e-book by Pure Adventures’ founder Loren Siekman. This guide explores the reasons behind the growth in self-guided cycling, the differences behind different types of cycling holidays and how to choose a self-guided holiday tour operator (including a list of where to research tour companies). Short and to the point, this free e-book is an unbiased starting point for cyclists who have been on guided tours and feel ready for a more adventurous holiday experience.
For more information on all of Pure Adventures guided, self-guided and supported, self-directed tours, call: 800-960-2221 or 480-905-1235, Email: [email protected], or visit online: http://pure-adventures.com.