PHOTO: Avanti Destinations explores China's Yangtze River. (photo courtesy of Avanti Destinations)
Avanti Destinations’ founder, Harry Dalgaard, has his eye on the massive 20-million passenger-a-year cruise market, and he is confident he can provide better pre- and post-cruise trips than those booked through the cruise lines.
Avanti opened a new microsite for booking pre-cruise and post-cruise tours.
Credit where due, Harry Dalgaard has been way ahead of the crowd for his entire career as an independent travel specialist. The robust growth and expansion of Avanti Destinations in recent years are based on the fact he has long been where much of the wholesale tour and package industry has been trying to get.
Avanti defines itself as the expert in “crafting seamless connections between multi-destination independent itineraries.”
When Avanti started in 1981, most wholesaler travel providers called their companies “tours.” Dalgaard called his company “destinations.” He was out of step then with the mainstream: People weren’t talking about destination management. But now the mainstream has caught up: Independent, customized travel through a professional destination management company is an increasingly popular way to go.
“We’re trying to provide convenience and flexibility, and a wider array of properties than normally what is available through cruise lines,” said Dalgaard. “We’re not knocking the cruise lines, but we find that travelers like the personalization of having private transfers when they get off the ship, instead of getting in a motorcoach. You have someone standing there portside with their name and a vehicle ready to take them to the airport or their hotel.”
However, the independent option does not suit everyone, Dalgaard says.
“In the cruise lines, there are different categories,” said Dalgaard. “The more economical inside cabins, or the lower cabins, and then get up to the concierge plans, the butler service and all that. And those people do want the personalization, the customization. And we’re able to fulfill that.
"You know how it is. The cruise is wonderful and then the disembarkation starts and it’s, ‘Group B go down and we’ve included your airport transfers, get on this bus…’ It’s fine if that works for you. But I think the personalization, the customization is a very nice opportunity for people.”
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Dalgaard’s concept for Avanti Destinations when he started was in tune with travel in 2017. Avanti makes it possible to piece together destinations and travel components in whatever order you want, depending on the availability of the transportation and lodging components.
Dalgaard says Avanti’s style of travel, “mirrors the way I like to travel myself. I am comfortable going with two or three or four people and just discovering new culinary adventures, cultural opportunities and that translates very well into our product offering.”
A growing number of travelers want to be able to do just that: travel independently, but with the support of experts.
For an individual traveler—and even for an experienced professional travel agent—building an itinerary from separate components can be highly labor intensive. Putting together independent components from a variety of sources is a technological problem many wholesalers have struggled with.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, but Avanti developed a proprietary technology nearly 20 years ago that makes it easy for travel agents to piece together the various components required to create an itinerary incorporating multiple destinations.
Avanti has an enviable technology, and in its more than 35 years in business has developed a tremendous portfolio of accommodations and activities, first in Europe (since 1981), then Latin America (since 1990) and now Asia (since last year).
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Avanti’s value proposition—and why Dalgaard believes it offers a good alternative to the cruise lines’ pre- and post-offerings—is that Avanti can offer better prices, much more variety of choice and better travel agent commissions than the cruise lines do.
Perhaps the best part of all, for some travelers, you can get a tailor-made trip designed exactly for your specific needs and desires.
Avanti can round out the package by booking restaurants, theater tickets, tours and other activities. Flights can also be booked through Avanti, and the company pays commissions to travel agents for those bookings, a rarity these days.
Avanti can provide the service in major cruise ports of Europe, Latin America and Asia. And for those who have booked through Avanti before, there is a familiarity factor.
“There is a continuity of concept and product,” he said. “The customers know that if had a good experience in Europe they will have one in Asia because our principle of contracting and creating the program is pretty much the same.”
Dalgaard admits there is an attraction to a one-stop convenience of booking the pre-cruise or post-cruise accommodations through the cruise line, but he hopes that the advantages Avanti offers will outweigh the booking convenience factor for some customers.
“We offer a lot more flexibility in that two- or one-night pre- and post- period,” said Dalgaard, “a wide choice of different accommodations, personal transfer service instead of on a bus, the ability to have one or two experiences. The diversity of tours Avanti has in these destinations, the depth of product: Those are things the cruise lines don’t do. We are the destinations.”