Gone are the days of booking your ticket and heading to an overseas destination and hoping for the best, relying on local kindness, your traveler’s cheques being accepted and lots of sign language for the next three weeks. Hell, no! This is the prepackaged, pre-booked and prearranged era and all you have to do is tick the boxes, type in your credit card details, book your annual leave and you too can be taken care of in New Zealand on a fully escorted tour.
The ever-widening choices for travelers now include 35 different categories of tourism; from agritourism to flashpacking to the much more ominous sounding, ‘dark tourism’. On the lighter and greener side, an escorted tour in New Zealand is likely to fall under one, or all of the following areas; active, adventure and sustainable tourism.
All in a similar vein from rugged to low-impact, the three categories cater for travelers who want a style (or philosophy) of travel that combines the elements of adventure, nature, and cultural tourism, with an emphasis on low-impact and sustainable tourism and the use of local guides.
Escorted tours in New Zealand can cater for large buses to smaller family groups depending on a number of factors including the amount of time you’ve got, your budget and your need for personal space. Some tourism operators argue that escorted coach tours fail to incorporate the active, adventure and sustainable tourism factors due to the sheer numbers of people jumping off and on the coaches, hitting all the tourist spots at the same time and not always using local guides.
The word ‘luxury’ is used in line with a lot of smaller (maximum of 12 people) escorted New Zealand tours and brings up visuals of pampering and stress-free travel. These high end (more expensive) tours cover all your planning details and have a guide who – if they’re good – will have everything under control and deal quickly with any little glitches that would otherwise dull your holiday glow.
Any situation where a bunch of strangers get thrown together for 2-3 weeks can be a gamble and an escorted tour is just the same. Usually in the smaller escorted tours you’ll find yourself amongst well travelled people with similar incomes or active, retired people who’ve been dreaming of this trip for a long time. It is up to the guide to use their magic and manage the different personalities so everyone feels looked after, special and willing to participate.
Details on an escorted tour are never left to chance – bookings have been confirmed months and months beforehand and the guide will be rechecking everything and making adjustments where needed. But you don’t see any of this and that is the beauty of these tours – phone calls and alternative plans due to weather or group requirements – all the mundane stuff is out of sight and out of mind.
So what are the expectations of you as a traveler on an escorted tour? You’ve just got to turn up on time to meals, activities and listen to the day’s run down (usually the night before), so you’re wearing the right kind of clothes, shoes etc and always, always bring your camera! It is of course entirely up to you how much interaction you want with the other guests and how politely you can stop some of them from telling you their entire life story.
If you’re a freakish organizer, don’t like surprises and need to know everything down to the minutest detail then the New Zealand escorted tour is probably not for you. This tour is for the traveler who wants to learn, have new experiences and meet the locals while remaining in blissful ignorance of the boring travel arrangements.