FIT vs Escorted Travel: Which is Right for Your Clients?

Written by: Michelle on March 20, 2019

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Two travelers can visit the same destination and have vastly different experiences depending on their travel styles and preferences. For instance, determining whether a FIT trip or an escorted tour means taking the time to qualify your clients, and figure out what they value about traveling. Do they want to have more activities included in the package, or is having a flexible schedule more important?

Read on to learn about the difference between FIT trips and escorted travel, and how to determine which is right for your clients.

FIT is an abbreviation that refers to either “foreign independent tour” or “free independent traveler.” The key to both versions is the word independent. This means that the traveler or small group of travelers (less than 10 people) will be taking a trip that does not follow an itinerary preset by a travel supplier and will not have a set tour guide or leader. Their travel agent creates an itinerary of their flights, hotels, and transportation as requested, but the agent is the one who designs this trip, not the travel supplier.

For example, imagine a couple tells you they want to visit London. They ask you to book the flights, hotel, and provide them with information on the London Underground system. They want the freedom to decide each day where to go and what to see in the city. They may opt to take a tour of Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London, but they do not want to have their schedule for these activities set by the travel supplier. This type of self-determined trip is a FIT experience.

FIT travel provides travelers with the benefit of flexibility and customization that they may not experience on an escorted tour. However, it can be harder for clients to budget for a FIT trip since it will not include meals, in-destination transportation, or sightseeing costs. Creating a custom itinerary usually means more time planning on the travel agent’s part. However, many agents enjoy planning FIT trips because they can work closely with clients to craft a tailor-made trip specifically for them. In some cases, travel agents can add excursions, sightseeing tours, and in-destination transportation if their clients request it.

Escorted tours provide a more structured and inclusive option. These vacations are expertly designed, led by travel experts, and usually have preset dates and itineraries to choose from. These packages usually include the hotel, bus or rail transportation, some meals, and admission costs to the activities scheduled. Flights may also be included or available as an add-on option. In destination, your clients will join the larger group of their escorted tour, which will vary in size depending upon the supplier and the destination.

For example, imagine another couple tells you they want to visit London. They ask you to book the flights and hotel. They want to see all of the major highlights of the city, like Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. They would also like to travel to Stonehedge and a castle if possible, but they don’t want to rent a car. They feel a tour guide would add value to their experiences at these locations and plan to use one. They want to spend their evenings seeing shows in London’s West End or enjoying a relaxing meal. To give them the best chance to see and do everything on their list, you should suggest an escorted tour.

Escorted tours appeal to clients who want to see the best of a destination. The exclusive connections that tour operators have allow escorted tour groups to bypass long entrance lines and partake in experiences that are not available to the public. In many cases, these tours are fast-paced, allowing clients to see more and save time. Most tours keep evenings open and some even have free days to allow travelers to experience the destination at their leisure.

Clients may worry that an escorted tour is more expensive than a FIT trip, but in reality, a traveler on an escorted tour is a cost-effective way to travel. Because the price of escorted tours includes transportation, admission, and usually some meals, escorted tours allow travelers to anticipate the total cost of their trip before they even leave.

Others may argue that escorted tours are only for retirees. Escorted tours cater to everyone, from millennial travelers and families to wellness travelers and foodies. For example, the Globus family of brands offers the Legacy of the Incas tour through Peru, which explore archaeological sites and traditional South American meals. The important thing to remember for agents is to match your clients to the right travel supplier and tour option to ensure they have an excellent escorted tour experience.

Are you interested in matching clients to their ideal vacation? KHM Travel Group is a host travel agency that provides independent travel agents with the tools and resources to start and grow their own travel business. To find out more, fill out the form to the right or call us at 1-888-611-1220.

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